Weather is so weird

The weather is definitely changing. This could be for the good, who knows, but it is definitely different. It is November 14 and today the temperature outside was 66 degrees F. I was able to work in a long sleeve shirt only and if I had kept doing manual labor nonstop could of done it in a tshirt. I had to work at the paying job on Friday as Annmarie and I left town for Veteran’s day. It was the third time we have left the farm in the last two years. I am told that is not very often when one is counting. So I had Mr Rainman come out on Saturday and Sunday to help me build fence. I am trying to get #4 field split in half with a fence so I have a 4A and 4B. 4A is already planted and I want to be able to keep the cows off of it so it can grow undisturbed.

Friday evening when I went out to take care of the sheep and put them in for the night I found a pleasant surprise, three new lambs! I was even more surprised when I put them in under the stairs and discovered that one ewe had all three babies, triplets! I fed and watered them and then ran all the rest of the sheep inside. I ran the other sheep past 3-4 times to make sure no one had a bloody backside and was missing a lamb. Nope, they were really a set of triplets and the mother looked like she could feed them all. Saturday morning they were all up and walking around and Annmarie went out and dosed them all with some selenium supplement. They are doing great and the mother is able to feed all three. Of course no one else had any babies all weekend long. Saturday we set up three partial pens so in the morning if Annmarie needs a pen she can just add one wall quickly and be done with it.

Mind you there are other projects that need to be done also but I had my heart set on fencing. We had to fuel and grease up both tractors then I was talking about building a platform for the new calf table on top of a pallet so I could just move the table with the new tractor forks. We ended up doing that Saturday morning. The calf table needed to be moved before January which is when our cows go to the butcher and I will need to be able to load them up through the chute. We built a platform on top of the pallet out of pressure treated 2” thick wood and even had to add another 14” to one side and add a 4×6 pressure treated board underneath. We bolted the calf table down to the pallet through the new covering boards after we anchored all of the new boards to the pallet. This project needed to happen, so we did it.

The fencing went fairly smooth. The fence is going into bottom land so it is much easier to drill in and that extra 150# of weight on top of the auger arm is the bomb! When the ground is not rock hard it just goes into the ground, I have a hole in a couple of minutes! It is so nice. Using the high tension wire and the cam tighteners is the perfect way to build a H-brace. It is super easy and now that I know what I am doing it is super easy to adjust. We have all of the T-posts and stays all laid out along the fence route. Three more H braces to finish and then press the T-posts into the ground with the tractor and we will be done with that in no time. We did have a piece of high tension wire pop and break today. Mr Rainman was putting too much muscle into use. I am now tightening the high tension line. We also converted a 50 gallon drum to ride on the 3 point attachment and its filled with metal horse shoes. The counter balance is great when moving big bales. The trouble is it drags on the ground a little and I did not realize how thin walled the barrels were. Depending on how things go I may need to think up something more permanent. I am hopeful we can get done in one day next week.

Porch almost done…

I have been working on getting the front porch done. I promised Annmarie that I would stop fencing, even though the weather is still good, to get the front porch finished. We have the stair railings and the the front porch gates still to complete. Now I did not install any of the railing, Mr Professional did so I felt like he needed to be present for the hand rails. He has been busy and unavailable but I managed to get him to come over for a few hours on Friday and Saturday. It was a good thing I waited for him. When I decided on upright 4×4 placement I did it to minimize the Trex cuts on the stair pieces. I did not know that according to the instructions you should put the support posts on the outer edge of the stairs. This is so that you can use the preset angles that Trex calculated for the stair railing 32-37 degrees. Since this little fact was overlooked for design and aesthetic reasons installing the stair railing was much more complicated than normal.

Using the template that was provided caused the railing to be too high and not match the porch railing. So we tried to alter the template. This did not result in the railings lining up. So then we tossed out the template and eye fitted the bottom railing in and marked the spots for the anchors. Once we had the bottom railing in and upright tubes in we had to cut the top railing but it was going to not fit correctly, the bottom post was too short for the angle. We had to use the Dewalt bandsaw. This is the single tool I did not want to buy this summer, and it has turned out to be essential when dealing with metal. We never could have gotten the rails cut correctly and even in place. We took the cut top rail, held it next to the poles and I used green tape to set the angle then just cut along the tape. It worked very well but it took us about eight hours to get two rails installed correctly and not cut my power cable to the two light poles as I ran the wires up the railing side. This would have been totally on me had we caught a wire. We reached down and stretched the wire tight in an attempt to move it out of the way when screwing in the railing anchors.

The gates that we are going to install are aluminum and have to measured and cut. We measured and cut them and then put them together, after tearing them apart twice we go them together correctly. The instruction sheet has eight steps and fits on one side of a normal piece of paper and has lots of pictures. They failed to tell you that the side pieces have to be held down as you predrill the holes or else the cover piece will not snap into place correctly, even if you use a file to knock it down. Also they failed to mention that you should use the silver screws that will be hidden under the trim and use the black colored ones for the corner angle pieces that are exposed. I now need to get some 3/4” black enamel sheet metal screws. So the gates are on hold until that happens.

We may have lost our bunny rabbits. We had two and have not seen a single one for over six weeks. They could have eaten hay out of the machine shed all winter so they could not die of starvation no matter how severe the weather. I think hanging around the machine shed may have been the cause of their demise as the owls like to hang out in there at night also.

Due to the amount of repairs and welding I have been doing I am going to rearrange the last bay in the machine shed. I am going to move all of the flammables away and move work benches so I can weld out of the rain inside the shop. This is a winter project. I need to finish getting the rest of the power and lights wired also. We are using the shop more and need to be able to do it in all kinds of weather.

As you can see I am hard at work raking the leaves with the same mower I use for the lawn. They have been in the yard all weekend. I put the dogs on the run and let the sheep in. The dogs don’t particularly like this arrangement and you cannot let our ankle biter dog out as Gizmo likes to ball the sheep up in a corner also. He thinks he is all tough and fails to realize that the big dogs have conditioned them to canine pressure.

Farmer Approved

It has been a very productive two days! I had Mr Rainman come out for Friday and of course it rained for a few hours. We cleaned up the machine shed, I worked on welding the weight holder for the three point auger. The soil is only moist for about the first two inches and then its very dry and our dirt has quite a bit of clay. The auger would not go down into the dirt. I had this idea to add 150# by welding on a tractor weight holder so we could put some weight on the auger. Since I had tried the auger for 30 minutes and was getting nowhere we opted to go back to the shop and do some welding. I just keep digging around in the old burn pile and the pile of scrap that keeps coming out of the ground. I have a pile started outside the machine shed and I just dig through it looking for something that will work. If you cover it all up with paint after you are done it covers up a lot of mistakes. I have learned to hit it hard with a hammer afterwards to just make sure it holds. We still had to dig out a small center part of the hole in three of the six holes as we could not get the auger to dig down without it, but it went fairly smooth after that. We were able to do 2 of 6 holes without doing anything. The first day we set the railroad ties in gravel and then used the Mistress (John Deere) to drive in the T-posts. I did have to fill the bucket with gravel and then throw on an extra 150# of tractor weights into the bucket to get enough weight to push in the T-posts. I still had to use the bucket as a driver on three T-posts. It is not elegant but with the bolt on T-post driver I have it does the job. We called it a day after that as I did not have any splicing tubes so I needed to go to town. Annmarie and I went shopping then had dinner afterwards. It was nice.

Saturday we did not have to fight the rain, just the cold! It was 40 degrees and the sun would not come out of the clouds. I felt like an a decrepit old soul trying to get out of bed this morning. I had a hard time sleeping as my entire back and upper arms felt like they were on fire all night long. I started out slow by doing more welding and Mr Rainman, cleaned out the machine shed some more and made the mower ramp for my mother-in-law for her new shed. He also moved the old John Deere baler over to the tractor tool area and away from the machine shed, therefore opening up another bay in the machine shed. I welded some gate latches out of scraps laying around or dug out of the ground. I had to clean the parts up a little bit with the grinder first as I could not get a good spark through all of the corrosion. Some of my later pieces look better than the early ones. Maybe if I keep this up I may be able to do some not so ugly welding.

The wind was blowing and with the cold spell the trees have finally started to drop leaves. My solution to leaves is the same as mowing the grass, I put the sheep in the front yard! I did it first thing this morning and will do it all day tomorrow also. The dogs go on the run so they cannot harass the sheep and the sheep know to stay away from the dogs. They also know the dogs cannot get at them, how they know that I do not know.

I had to run back to town to get the right size splices, the one I picked up the day before was too small. We got all of the wire up, attached and the gates hung in about four hours. The new battery powered fence stapler is the bomb!! It just slams through driving staples. We had all the wooden stays up in under ten minutes, push, hold the trigger, machine whines then slams a staple into the stay. I love using the high tension wire and tighteners now to make H-braces. It keeps them taut and if they get loose at all they are incredibly easy to tighten. Which is not true when you use wooden stays and smooth wire twisted together.

I even managed to sell our old ram as ground mutton this week! He will be going to a good home that will appreciate what he has to offer. I think I still have one cow left to sell.

Catch up

There was some rain last week and the grass is taking advantage of it. If you stare at the picture long enough you will see some green covering starting to happen on field #3. The cows had been going up through the freshly planted fields as they were dry and there was more grass up above for them to eat. When I noticed this new growth this week I locked the cows into field #4 and the barn lot only. I started to feed the cows hay now. I need this grass to get well established so that next year we can get as much hay as possible and have as much grazing land.

It has been a long week. I had some help early on in the week, Mr Rainman came out to do a few things while I did the paying job. He worked on finishing the harrow work in field #4 then planted dryland grass seed. I want to plant sections of fields where the animals are but need to keep them off of the area while we get the grass established. We want to get the grass growing and the fences in place so we can install an irrigation system. We have been looking at various solutions and need something that is doable when we are 70 years old. We have found an underground system that uses a mainline then has a soft pipe connection to the mainline and a plug in ground level connector. You just plug in the sprinkler head and it works, the best part is the connectors are off to the side and made of flexible pipe so they account for vehicles and animals stepping on them without breaking any pipe. This is the same reason to subdivide the fields. As we run into very dry summers we need to be able to keep the animals off of certain areas to enforce a rotation so that the grass has a chance to snap back. We are looking at selling all of our aluminum pipe to fund the majority of our system. This is in our two year plan, but next year our big expense is gutters for the front of the house and ice breakers for the roof. Again, looking at that retirement need!

I had him cut back our trumpet vine next to the house as the wind had been blowing and it was scratching on the metal roof. He did this the day of a 40mph+ wind storm, it was so bad Annmarie had me send him home.

I also had him trim the trumpet vine growing next to the old house as this had not been done for about seven years and the house was getting rubbed on. We had a huge windstorm today and there was absolutely no sound from anything rubbing on either house. Big win and may cause us to not even have to trim anything next year.

He also picked up all of the branches from our front yard one morning after a wind storm. There were branches everywhere. We usually ignore the leaves and if they get deep enough in the yard then I just let the sheep into the front yard and they eat the leaves. He then went out and pulled a disc around the back half of field #5 (#5b, as I am not going to keep renumbering fields when they get split). That section has a 3-4 foot drop off between levels and needs to be knocked down some to make it safe to drive on. It is not safe to drive the tractor on the drop off unless you are going up or down, no sideways driving will happen unless you want to roll the tractor onto its side.

Friday we were fortunate to have 0.82” of rain fall throughout most of the day, this doesn’t sound like much but its 6.8% of our annual rainfall of 12”. I looked it up we get between 12”-13.5” annually, depends on where you look. This was much needed rain, and if the temperature will stay above freezing and get above 50 F during the day I may get some growth on my fields.

Saturday I spent the morning being lazy, this is not a common occurrence at our house but it does occasionally happen. I then went out and used the arena groomer on field #5b. I spent about four hours going around in circles and trying to knock down the 3-4’ drop off, so when we were driving out here with the tractor we did not have to worry about tipping the tractor over no matter how we drove. It is now safe to drive sideways the length of the drop off. It took a lot of going around in circles to smooth out the field and drop off. I am always amazed at how not flat a field can be that looks pretty smooth from a distance but when you get into it you notice the little irregularities. This should make it pretty easy to cut and bale in the late spring. I keep forgetting how much rougher the little John Deere tractor is to ride around in. I felt pretty beat up after my four hours and definitely wore my seat belt the entire time. Ithen took the arena groomer off and put the post hole auger on the tractor. My top three point adjusting bar is broken on the little tractor. I need a new one, it is not turning any more. Once I got the three point auger on I realized I could not hook up the pto shaft as it was rusted on the auger! I drove to the machine shed, parked under cover and used 1/4 bottle of spray lubricant onto the shaft and then let it soak in repeatedly. Once I get the thing freed, if needed I will chain it to the other tractor and pull it apart, then I will clean up the inside shaft, use some lithium grease and put it all back together. I was really just trying to get the auger on the tractor so I can weld on a T shaped 8” holder onto the auger so I can stick 50-150# worth of tractor weight onto the arm near the auger. Sometimes, you just need a little weight on the end to make it work better as I cannot get any significant downward pressure with my 3 point hitch. The hitch won’t even notice the extra 150#. I figured this would help me in drilling holes and speeding up work. I will have to be careful to not let it cut too fast or I will be changing out the shear bolts all the time, but this will be easy to do.

I did not get to do the welding as we had a huge wind storm on Sunday! I fed the sheep and horse then went to get the Kubota tractor with pallet forks to feed the cows in the upper barn lot. The problem is the wind is 50mph and it started to rain again. The rain felt like hail due to the wind, I had to keep checking it as I was sure little ice balls were pelting me nonstop but no, just liquid water at high velocity. The Kubota has been moving the big bails fairly easily, I did not count on that 0.86” of accumulated rain in the last three days adding a bunch of weight to the bale! I had to drive the tractor in 4wd due to only the front two tires and one rear tire touching the ground the entire time. Needless to say, the bale was just barely above the ground and kept touching the ground so the tractor could stay on three tires with one rear wheel about 1” off the ground. I need to prioritize getting a quick hitch for the Kubota and converting one of the 50 gallon drums into a weight that I can back up to and drive off with when using the pallet forks. I have one full of horseshoes and it weighs around 800#. I know this because that is the max weight on my John Deere bucket and its all it can do to lift it. This is going to become a priority. I did notice that the Kubota tractor has an all steel foot deck with raised holes that cleans the mud off of my boots and lets me wash down the deck easily, I had to keep my hat tilted down to keep the rain from pelting my face and I may also need a new pair of muck boots as mine are pretty beat up but still waterproof so I will most likely hold off until they leak.

Winter is close

Well I did the welding thing again. I think the most frustrating thing about the welding is I don’t have a nice clean stash of spare metal. This is a issue that requires some more welding! I am thinking about converting a header trailer into a metal storage building. So what I do now is dig through one of three scrap metal piles until I find a few pieces of metal I think will work, clean them up with the grinder and then wire brush them. I do use a battery powered grinder (thank you DeWalt) to clean them up. Mr Professional said I needed a battery powered circular band saw (yes, it’s a DeWalt) this summer and I bought it. It is the bomb! It was so easy to cut the angle iron and flat iron pieces, and when I failed to measure the T shaped opening on the old tractor weights and welded two pieces of angle iron together that were too wide I was able to slice off an entire edge with ease. I built the supports tall enough to hold two weights at each spot, 50#/each and left room for me to drill a hole and slap a pin through so the weights cannot bounce or fall off. I was able to try it out on the driveway on Friday. It turned out very nice and the extra weight makes all the difference in getting the teeth to dig in a little instead of sitting on the surface of the dry ground. Our driveway is very smooth now! This was needed to finish dragging the last section of field #4. Once that is smooth then it can be planted. I still want to do the 1.5 acres down by where we feed the cows, I am going to call that field #5, the one across the creek #6 and then the far one #7. The orchard field, ram pasture and schoolhouse field will all have names. It must be time to make an index map again.

I spent Saturday morning working on getting our new porch pillar lights installed. This turned out to be a bigger hassle than I thought it would be considering I already had power installed under the porch. I installed a support brace behind the stairwell that makes it virtually impossible to crawl under the stairs. I was able to slip one arm and my head under and that was all. I had to install some jumpers and the 10’ extension wires I purchased which morphed into only 5’ extensions as I was incorrect in my assumption that 5’ was long enough. This caused me to have to install two more extra jumpers to build up the distance. I had to drill holes at the base of the 4×4 and then fish wires through. I installed the light sensor so it had just enough light from the sun to turn the lights off and on by photovoltaic switch. Annmarie sent me a picture after it got dark, I was at my paying job, and they worked! The only problem was when we woke up this morning the lights were off. I am hopeful that I messed up on my timer selection and that tonight when it gets dark the lights will come back on. The lights are 12v DC, and I had to dodge wasps the entire time as they were just dormant enough to hang onto the siding. I came into the house and grabbed hornet spray to kill them. The spray went down into the siding and for the next hour they kept coming out and trying to fall on me as I was working. So to expedite the process I started to smash them with the battery on the drill. I didn’t want to stick my hand or buttocks onto one that was dying but still alive enough to sting me.

While I was crawling in and out from underneath the porch I realized that there are enough blocks to complete the hypotenuse formed by the two sides of the house. This will help cover the opening near the house from our deck install and it will look good from the front of the house. Hopefully, this can get finished this week. We will see…