Beef or Turkey?

I went out to the old house to get some stew meat for dinner yesterday. I was going to be fencing all day and didn’t want to mess with something in the evening. I found beef soup bones and stew meat. I was going to just toss them in the slow cooker and remembered we had some frozen broth. I am trying to clean out the in house freezer. So I tossed in the frozen chunk of broth base and two packages of frozen beef, some spices and onions. I went outside and picked fresh carrots and dug up fresh potatoes. I cut up the carrots and washed up the potatoes. I set my phone alarm so I could come back to the house for lunch and toss it all into the slow cooker. When I came back at lunch time I realized that I had used turkey base! Annmarie and I had just had a discussion about me labeling frozen packages because I brought in two things from freezer and neither was labeled. I asked Annmarie and she didn’t know. She thinks one might be prime rib. I put it in the fridge to thaw out, I should be able to tell when it is no longer a solid lump. The stew was fantastic and no one noticed the discrepancy! Another win for mystery freezer food.

Our washing machine fabric softener dispenser stopped working last week. Annmarie wanted me to call the repairman but I figured I should dig into it first. I had to call the plumber to come fix our deep sink faucet. It runs continuously, he should be here some time this week to look at it. I tried tightening down the packing but it only worked for a little bit and now the handle moved 360 degrees and the leak is worse.

So I watched a You Tube video on how to clean out the fabric softener dispenser. WOW, it took me almost an hour to clean it out, I had to resort to using a tooth brush to get all the little nooks and crannies clean. It works now but I need to add that to my list, needs to happen more than every few years.

I went out and started putting woven wire up on the fence. I always forget how long it takes to put the clips on. They take forever and each T post gets 4 clips on the woven wire. I got 2/3 of the woven wire up and Tex came out in the late evening and got the last 1/3 up and top clipped to hold it in place. I will finish clipping it in place today and hopefully get the gates hung also. Then I can start marking out the next section of fencing tomorrow. I still have one more week of vacation.

I contacted the grant people and once the fence is finished they will come out and take pictures and get the supplies reimbursed.

Old man auger

Sunday, I got out early and started to work on drilling more post holes. My poor post hole auger is on its last leg. I swapped teeth around again so each side has one half decent tooth and one side its on the outside and the other inside. I was hoping between the two they could make some headway. It did work kinda. The holes took 20 minutes to dig. I had to keep changing the angle of the auger with the tractor to get the working teeth to dig in. I felt like an old man pushing steak around in his mouth to chew it up enough for swallowing! It was painful. I hope the tractor supply place has them on hand but we got all 19 holes dug out. We had to finish 5 by hand, one had a huge rock in it and the other was chock full of fist size rocks. My shear bolt did not break 1/4″ bolt but one of my auger support bolts 7/16 sheared off. I was unable to get the new bolt as the auger had shifted due to the other bolt bending. So I unbolted the other bolt and attempted to beat it out. It would not budge, but. I was able to install the new bolt. After the beating the nut would not go back on so I just put a new bolt in my tool carrier mounted on the tractor and told Tex we would replace it when it self extricates. It held up for 3 more holes.

It was a beautiful morning, overcast, not too hot, not too cold and I only needed a long sleeve shirt to be comfortable. This is necessary so that when you start working hard you can remove more clothing.

Tex had promised me he would be there in the morning as he had made a commitment. I have to say that at times I think teenagers are easier to deal with than early 20’s adults. Call it my personal experience bias but it is frustrating. Tex did not show up. I set a couple of posts and then went to set a gate post that Tex had dropped in its hole. It was too close, the hole needed to be moved back four inches. I could not pull the post out of the ground! I had seen him struggling with it from across the field on Saturday but I had not lifted a railroad tie yet. I should have known after getting slapped down by the fencing supplies on Saturday. I was attempting to remove the straps holding everything onto the trailer and four ties had shifted and were leaning onto the four gates running the length of the trailer. I was standing right next to the trailer, my shoulder next to the gates when I let the cross strap loose. Those ties dropped over and slammed the gate into my shoulder driving me to the ground. Luckily they did not leap off the trailer and body check me to the ground. I laid there sprawled out on the ground making sure I was still in one piece then used the tractor to pull the railroad ties off of the trailer. My two sudden potentially harrowing instances on the farm have come from shifting loads.

I had to use the tractor to pull the post out of the ground and then had cut the hole four more inches. The ground is still pretty dang hard and dry despite the green everywhere.

I hammered in the long stretch of T posts there is a slight curve in my line. I must need more practice but after averaging the number of hits required to drive in a single T post (15 smacks) I was unwilling to redo the entire section for a 5 inch arc. I will just pull the fence tighter. I knew we were working hard when my forearm started to cramp up from using the breaker bar and post hole driver. It feels like someone is pinching me with a hot pair of pliers. I love getting more “mature”.

Tex did show up at 1045 and worked till dark. He overslept, thought he had set an alarm. Like I said, teenagers may be easier. We made great progress and got all 19 railroad ties set in gravel and ready to go. They were so heavy that Tex made me lift my one side on every railroad tie we put in the ground! He was not going to move them alone at all. The very last two we almost had to use the tractor on they were so heavy.

Is it Winter yet?

Yesterday Tex came out and we did the cleanup and winterization stuff. There are still three hoses that need to be rolled up and put in the shed but the rest of the stuff is done. Tex got leaves washed off the low roof as they hold the moisture and can cause leaks. We got the front hillside planted with clover! I will be happy if only 50% of the seed takes off, anything to choke out the cheatgrass that is currently growing there. We had a talk and Tex agreed to help me with the lower fence.

I put gravel in the Alcatraz area so the butcher cows don’t make a mess down by the spring. We will see how it works in a few weeks when they get put in there for the all you can eat buffet of alfalfa.

This is the fence that I got the grant to install. I had been holding off on it but he may leave in January and not come back. I just needed to know that if we started this project he would see it through. He has been a little flakey. He agreed and got my point so Annmarie and I went to town and bought everything we needed for the first section of fence, $2000! This would be why I normally go to the junkyard and buy all my stuff used and beat up.

As soon as I took the tractor down to start drilling holes the cows came running. They thought I was going to feed them. They do not need food, I have confirmed this by putting out a protein block that they are half heartedly occasionally licking on. They are content to go around and eat the grass that is still growing. Once they realized I had nothing for them they wandered off.

I started to drill holes but was getting no where. I decided to look at the teeth on the auger and realized that the outer tooth was almost gone! I swapped the inner and outer teeth hoping that it would work better. It did! Before the day was over I had one long tooth on the outside and on the opposite side I put the long tooth in the inner spot and then flipped my short piece upside down so it would be point out. This worked the best but I also realized that my inner cone is almost worn down to a smooth piece of metal also. I definitely need to do some repair on the auger but for now I just have to use it! Who would guess that after six years I would wear the teeth off of it! Tex laid out and marked all the T post locations and started to clean out the holes I managed to get drilled. I have six holes to finish up tomorrow.

I was unpacking the trailer and a few railroad ties had shifted. I went to loosen the strap and ended up getting swatted to the ground by the gates crashing into me with a few hundred pounds of railroad ties on top of them. It rung my bell but I didn’t black out. I have to say that shifting loads have smacked me around twice and they are not any fun.

I will get the parts for the auger repair this week and my pump upgrade for the sprayer is in the mail. When it comes we will get it installed and the get the sprayer strapped down and ready to go. I want it all prepped and ready to go in the spring. We can feed using the tractor instead of the side by side. I may have to start the thing every couple of months just so it doesn’t forget how to do it.

Rental “mini excavator”

Last weekend was busy! I had planned to rent a mini backhoe. I had called the rental place and he asked if I had a trailer, I do and then he reserved some “304” backhoe. I went in first thing on Saturday and attempted to pickup said “backhoe”. He looked outside at my small 16′ trailer on the pickup and chuckled. I had been rented a full size backhoe! I would have needed a semi truck and trailer to move it. I pointed to the trackhoe I wanted and was told those are called “mini-excavators”. I got one of those with a thumb so we could clean the sumac out of the ditch. Tex cleaned up and started burn piles while I went to pickup the “mini-excavator”. I only had 8 run hours on the machine so I drove to the upper end before unloading the excavator. I wanted all my equipment time doing productive work. We got about 2/3 of the ditch cleaned out before I resorted to fire and burned out the rest.

We went and dug a ditch for two culverts and I attempted to dig a new drainage ditch but it was going to take another 4 hours of run time at least on the excavator so I had to give up. I could have used the thing for at least 40 hours and not gotten everything done on my to do list. The main reason for renting it was to get the ditch cleaned out and that got done.

The fence on the backside of the creek needs to be moved back away from the water about 10 feet but I need a road put in as I cannot even get the tractor back along the hillside. I am going to ignore it for now and figure it out later.

I did not like running the excavator. I had to pee every hour after a single cup of coffee in the morning! The thing just vibrates and shakes and is constantly pounding your bladder. I shudder to think what it would have been like if I had stayed hydrated throughout the day.

The two upper fields that have been planted look great! They are greening up and growing. I like that, maybe I did something right this time. Once we got back to the house we had to figure out how to change the hitch on the pickup as we had parked the excavator a little too far forward on the trailer. It took about 30 minutes of messing with it to get it changed out. Tex had said he would come out the next day so I spent the evening creating a list of items for him to do on Sunday and I was going to go up and work on the ditch some more with my tractor.

He was a no show! So I spent 1.5 hours cleaning the mini excavator and doing odds and ends. I did manage to get about 4 hours in on the ditch, but had to stop after overheating the tractor. It does not like being ran hard for hours on end on a comfortable day. It gets hot!

I decided that after cleaning the excavator I should clean my own tractor. It took me almost an hour to get all the weeds blown out from every nook and cranny on the tractor. That is the first time this year the mistress has been clean. I even beat on the hood a little bit with a hammer in an attempt to remove the dent. I am going to have to pop the hood off and put it on the anvil and pound out the dent. It is not going to come out easily. Tex had managed to break one of bar lights on the tractor by letting it down and raising the box blade. I am going to have to rearrange the lights on the bar so I don’t repeat this maneuver. I am going back on vacation in a week so I can hopefully get more winterization completed.

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.