Sunday was the big day, Mr Rainman and I were going to finish the underlayment and get ready to lay TREX. This proved to be a futile thought as we just kept plodding along and could not seem to speed up. We had to undo a section and recut some pieces as we had subtracted 1/2’ due to the warp in the board. The pressure treated lumber is not ideal. It has more flaws than normal lumber and is still very expense. We need to keep the distance from the house to the outside of edge of the deck the same along the entire length of the deck. This is proving to be possible but not without a lot of attention and detail work.
We figured out today to get the overhang correct we needed to face the entire outside 2×10 with another layer of wood so there is a space around the beams we can attach the TREX. We watched another three videos today, figured out that we need some starter screws and some colored deck screws, neither of which came in our build kit plans. We opted out of getting the Butyl tape to go over the top of the pressure treated wood, our deck is covered and this was going to cost $500 for 20 rolls of 50 feet/each. There just has to be a limit. We saw the resident bunny rabbit out by the cars this morning. We tend to spot one every couple of years but they never seem to be able to reproduce in any large quantities.
We did not get done with the underlayment! We have about six feet left. The far corner again proved to be a problem. There was no attachment like the other side to attach the deck to the house. We had to run a board over to the stem wall. Mr Rainman dug out the corner near the house and go the concrete pillar positioned as close to the house as was possible. We then pinned it in place and blocked around it so there is absolutely no movement possible in the deck railing. I figure at least one more solid day on getting the deck prepped and the stairs may take another day also. I still need to purchase the riser/run pieces from the hardware store. We will have to set the lower posts into concrete to ensure they don’t move. I want to wait to dig the concrete until we have the riser/run supports installed.
Mr Rainman spotted a large rock chuck up on the hill but it was hiding in the rocks and I could not shoot it. I kept the 17HMR out in the yard just in case the rock chuck came back down to the ram pasture and greener grass. He did not come down, but eventually I walked up behind the machine shed and got a better angle and shot it. We are down five rock chucks near the house. I think there is at least one more.
My helpers finished getting in the last two tons of hay into the barn this week. We managed to get one ton of grass hay just off of the area around the school house. Even with help and me doing the driving I was done last weekend by the time we got the hay into the barn. Mr CrossFit ran the weed eater and cleaned up the berry area. The grass and weeds keep growing back. We are going to lay down some ground cloth and cover it up to keep the grass and weeds down, eventually. It’s on the list but not a super high priority. It was time to shift gears and move on to the next project.
The front deck needs to be finished and TREX deck applied. I had all the TREX laid out by the house and thought I was ready to go. Friday morning, Mr Rainman came over to help, he unloaded the pickup with my daughter and then we went to town to buy more stuff for the deck. Another $1000 and we had more lumber and concrete blocks. We unloaded everything onto the yard pile and started in on making the deck underlayment. The price of TREX and building supplies is really high. I know I keep reading about it but a project I planned two years ago was going to cost $6k in materials and now is costing $10k in materials. It is crazy, I have had to shift some money I was saving for the old house remodel to the deck project. This is making the old house project look mighty lean!
We started to install the support framework. This did not go fast and we kept having to stop and take more measurements. The corner beam had to be moved in an inch. We had to stop, make adjustments and keep the width the same every time we moved forward. This sounds easy but it is a constant battle. We did not get very far on Friday. One of the beams had about 20% dry rot and had to be dug out, we ended up cleaning it out and filling the holes with concrete.
Saturday was the day to get completed! Mr Rainman came out and we started in again. I had him doing the cutting, which involved carrying and delivering the cut wood to the job site. I stayed in one place and hollered out measurements. We set posts for the railing, this involved digging a hole, filling with some gravel, setting the 4×4 concrete footing block then centering the block. Once we had the block centered we sandwiched the 4×4 with 2×6 pieces to keep it from moving then I even filled in the other two sides with wood and shims to lock it all into place so that there is no way the posts can come loose! It got hot on Saturday so Mr Rainman was in full force, we discussed the need to drink more water. Neither of us were drinking enough to pee every hour, but I was ahead. My wife was sticking her head out the front door and ensuring that my water consumption was sufficient. He was on his own.
That evening we went down and pushed the sheep up into the barn lot. The dogs did all the work, we just plodded along. Once we had the sheep into the barn we sorted off all of the babies. The youngest set of twins were not quite three months old. It actually went fairly smooth and we sorted off a nice big lamb for one of our customers. They took it home in a dog crate and Annmarie overhead the spouse telling their partner that “this one is food”. They now have two pet lambs from last year that are now no longer lambs. We pushed all the lambs over into the ram pasture but it is looking pretty eaten down, the sheep will need to be let up above into field #4 with the cows this week.
Saturday the plan was to start earlier in the day. Mr Hustle and Flow did not like busting bales during the heat of the day in triple digit weather and wanted to do it when it was cooler. This is a reasonable request and was accommodated. They showed up early and we went out to the pickup by 0600. All good ideas must be punished or tarnished in some way, the capricious Lady Luck had some say in their choice. It appears that the last one to move the pickup yesterday was Mr Flow, he left the ignition key turned to the on position. The battery was DEAD! No problem, I will just go get the portable battery vehicle jumper I just replaced this year, yeah, it was dead as I have not needed it since I initially charged it up. You do have to plug it in occasionally to keep it charged. Okay, there is a work around for this, I grabbed the jumper cables and had Mr Hustle go get the tractor/baler combo out of the orchard. I needed it soon anyways so this will just ease my access. Mr Flow tells me that the tools in the pickup glove box will not remove the battery terminal as it is severely corroded again. Magically, my battery terminal cleaner, that was stored in the glove box was missing. I hunted in several places but could not find it, I did however find a small wire brush. Finally, the terminals were clean, the tractor was here and the pickup started on the first try. We just left the pickup running for the next two hours to make sure that the battery had a chance to get recharged. My brilliant idea did work, the sheep cleaned out the entire baler and I did not have to dig out any blockage!
At 0800 my next helper came out, Mr CrossFit. He is going to be in the area for the next three months and had never been on a farm to help, his wife said he may be up for some farm work and he decided to come out. He showed up just in time as we had just pulled into the barn lot with a full trailer and pickup bed full of bales to unload. No rest for the wicked, so he went right to work. I did have to give a little instruction as to the benefits of using your legs to lift and throw a bale. When you have to do this all day the leg trick makes all the difference in the world. I went out with the three of them and we picked up the cheat grass bales. The overhead walkway was ready for these and we will use them as bedding instead of buying straw. The helpers groaned internally when I showed them that they had to go up stairs and stack them all in the walkway. We have about 80 bales up there now ready to just be tossed off for bedding! I realize that there is a lot of extra labor going in on some of these projects but it is all designed to make our labor much easier this winter. I left the three of them alone to finish picking up bales while I went out and baled some more.
I managed to get another 100 bales completed and now field #2&3 are all done. #2 still has some unbaled hay along the creek side but again, after jamming the baler another six times I was done! Turning it did help but some is just still in the tall grass and I cannot get it baled without jamming. I did the sheep trick again and drove it down to the orchard for a sheep clean out. I was going to help with the hay removal process so the sheep can do their part. I also sheared a shear bolt for the second time and just did not want to mess with it any more for the day. I went and got more diesel for the tractor and filled up the pickup, I managed to get 25 gallons into the pickup, it was getting close to fumes and the gas gauge is not very accurate on the low side. Older vehicles and equipment need a user manual, for sure, just to understand all the quirks. We hit it hard and managed to fill up the entire first hay room. It is stacked all the way to the door, and the second room has started getting round bales. We have managed to put away 17 ton of hay in the last two days. I am keeping track of which fields and how much is coming out of each field so we can start to do some projections for how much hay we will be getting next year.
Friday was the day to dig back into the hay. I even managed to get out and get to bailing by 0730. This seems late but I had to to fill the tractor with diesel, blow off the entire tractor with air, paying special attention to the radiator to get all of the dirt out of it. I have a screen filter in front of the radiator that catches all of the weed particles but the dust will clog up the radiator if you do not blow it out every day during the summer. I focused on field #2 and noticed that the rows near the creek side kept jamming the baler and then I had to stop and dig it out by hand. Yes, I do turn off the pto, turn off the tractor after I lift the rear of the baler, and I even turn the hydraulic valve closed to keep the baler open. The baler lid weighs far more than I want squishing my while my head and body are inside the baler trying to clean it out. I finally got tired of digging out jams after five times and just quit rowing on that side of the field. It has to do with my mowing job. The grass was super tall and I ended up only cutting about 70% of it so the still live grass is jamming up the baler. I need to change the blade on the sickle bar obviously. Mr Professional came out in the afternoon and turned all of the loose hay that I had not yet managed to bale. I managed to bale over 500 round bales with the Minibaler and finished the neighbors field A.
Mr Professional got a couple of young men from up the road to help us start moving the hay into the barn. The unfortunate part of this is that the hay has to go to the ceiling, which is 16 feet high! I have not welded the old hay ladder find I picked up three years ago yet so it is all done by hand. I am thinking that the ladder is going to have to become a winter project this year. I have dubbed the new helpers Mr Hustle and Mr Flow. I did the baling while they did all the heavy lifting, the people in my life who think I should still be taking it easy will be happy. I am not very good at being inactive. I have lost my popeye arms and upper back muscles. Any activity causes a lot more muscle weariness than I am used to tolerating prior to Covid. I am feeling much better, just saw the cardiologist this week and will continue meds for another three months. It is improving and for that I am grateful even if I am a lot frustrated.
Mr Hustle told me that he saw a cougar last week on our place. It was up on the rocky hillside by field #2. He watched it come off the hillside and go into the tall grass then a few minutes later all of the deer ran out of the field. They come up to the corner of the field to get a cell phone signal so tend to hang out in their cars for a while whenever they feel the need for electronic device time. There is no cell phone signal up the canyon from us, not really any even at the end of our place in spots. The only really decent cell service in the area is Verizon if you are looking for all around access any where in the state. It’s different when you are in a city but once you get into the rural areas the access can change dramatically.
I ended up jamming the baler one last time and just called it quits, I was tired of digging it out. I had an epiphany and decided to not clean it out, I just drove back to the house with it all jammed up and drove right into the orchard. I lifted the back end of the baler and locked it open. My hope is the lambs in that field will just reach in and clean it all out before I get to it the next morning.
It has been a long two days. I worked a 19 hour day between my paying job and the farm. The lights we installed last year are really helping. The weather was beautiful and I was able to use the rake while wearing short sleeves and even once the sun went down it never got super cool. I just kept going. Until I broke the rake. It has two legs off the back and square tubing that is bent 30 degrees. It broke right at the bend and this ended my raking at 2300 instead of midnight like I had planned. So now the new welder needs to get in play again and fix this issue. I want to be able to reinforce this angle and purchased some angle iron and flat iron to be able to make this happen. I am going to need to create a spot in the machine shed where I can store all of these scrap metal pieces to use for various projects.
Mr Professional has been out of service for the last couple of days and was returning to the farm today. I gave him the good news that I had broken the rake. But I wanted him to stay focused and just get the old John Deere 336 baler up and baling the hay I had rowed. We need bales made! he got it going this afternoon and in under one hour made 200 forty pound bales before it made a noise and stopped working. Turns out we need a new bearing. I had to come home early and take a nap and had enough time to run into the parts store. I was running on empty and could not keep going. I got a bearing, picked up a sandwich for us to split and headed home. The bearing looked weird but it was a part in hand. Mr Professional was already out in the field making round bales. I looked at the broken baler and broke out the repair manual. Come to find out we needed the gear box bearing seal. All of the oil had leaked out and according to the book we need to pull the entire transmission out of the baler! So this will not be a two hour fix.
I went out in the field just as Mr Professional broke the mini round baler. He took the covers off and the shear bolt was broken. The problem with this is he took the tool bag out of the canvas bag on the tractor. He violated the tool rule!! We both know that the tools have to be on the tractor, this is why we have a special bag with all of the correct sized tools to repair the baler. So we had to go back and get tools and shear bolts and then he left me to go work on the old John Deere Baler. I started in on it and kept getting both gears to turn when I turned the baler splines. The internal gear should be attached to the shaft which should be stationary as the tractor is not moving. The only reason it could move is if the same gear insert problem we just welded on the other side happened on this side. My gut said it was the problem. I was texting Mr Professional who kept telling me to just replace the shear bolt. Hard to do when the gears won’t align. I was saved by a call from work and I had to go into the hospital, problem was I am dirty and covered in grease. I went home, turfed the problem to Mr Professional and went and got cleaned up. Big surprise 30 minutes later he is pulling it into the machine shed. The exact same problem occurred and it needed to be torn down to expose the gear so it could be welded to the insert. I was called off of work but I was now clean. I ended up doing some dishes, putting away laundry, watering my plants and starting Roomba. I even took the time to work on the blog!! I want to get to bed before midnight and I will need to be working nonstop after work for the entire weekend to get the hay thing under control. I am hoping we can get the bearing tomorrow for the old John Deere. We made about 200 square bales and 25 round bales. The square bales are around 40# each and the round are calculated at 50# but probably weigh closer to 65#. We will need to weight some to get an accurate count. So about 4.5 ton are baled and the property owner gets half, we get the other half.
It only took Mr Professional two hours to tear it apart weld it and put it back together! It took 8 the first time on the other side. It is 2230 and he is out on the little tractor in the dark making round bales. I am going to go to bed so that I can get at it tomorrow afternoon and on into the night also. It is nice to work with someone who gets it.
Snoop, the alpaca, is so lazy he is laying down and eating baled hay off of the old baler!! That is lazy.