The chickens are enjoying the weather and all of this rain. We have moved the compost dumping area down the fence line about 15 feet in an effort to get the chickens to work down the weeds. I have been trying to recycle 50# of dried rice used to dry out electrical equipment into chicken food. I use the rice cooker and give them 8-16 cups of cooked rice a day. I have been at it for two weeks and have half the rice gone maybe. Even the chickens are getting tired of rice at every meal, they will run over eat a little bit then run away. They do forage on the rice all day and eat it eventually but if that were cat food I was tossing out they would eat it until it was gone every time.
My spare parts for the haying equipment came this week also. Unfortunately, they did not have all the parts I asked for but I took what they sent me. It tends to take about 3-4 weeks to get parts from the company so I went through and looked at the parts I have already broken and the parts that may break and have started a list. The company did a great job of labeling each set of bolts and nuts so I know exactly what they are. I have them separated out into containers with sharpy labels on the outside. My goal is to get another 2 metal cabinets and use two of them for parts only. I want to dedicate half the cabinet to each piece of hay equipment so it is easy to find and won’t get lost since I have to have so many parts on hand.
I am having trouble with my front left tire that fell off. I was getting ready to go to the upper field with the arena groomer when I noticed that the same tire had two lug nut bolts missing. Luckily, the wheel had not fallen off again. I had picked up six bolts from the tractor store and put two back in and tightened down everything. I am going to have to figure out why this is happening. The new tractor seat came in, it is thicker than the old but I need some kind of shock absorber on it now so the ride is smoother. more internet shopping time is needed. The first seat lasted seven years and the tractor spent more time out in the sun than under cover. Since we have gotten the machine shed cleaned out the side by side and the tractor are parked inside away from the sun whenever they are not in use.
Mr Professional and the Future NASCAR driver have been working on the cross fence in the barn lot. All three of us went up there and got it finalized. I still need to get into the spring path and dig out some more mud but it was so bad that I kept getting stuck in the tractor. I made a deeper pathway that is only about 1 foot wide and will let it dry out for few weeks before I go back at from the sides with the tractor. I want to build up the embankment on the northern side so when the water comes rushing down it will get pushed back and over the embankment. We still need to cut the final cow panel to fit to the bottom of the gully but not until I reshape the gully to accept more water. So we just used the bent one from the flood and will address it later.
The ram started to favor his front left leg four days ago but would not let us touch it, we could get close enough to pet him but not pin him. He is also over 200 pounds and all muscle with some fat and is not going to let me just pin him to look at his foot. We ended up just moving all the boys from Alcatraz to behind the barn into a nice dry lot and watered them in the corral. This got the ram closer to our chute were we could pin him in place. We did this in the evening and then let them hang out all night by the next morning the ram was already putting weight on the leg and looked dramatically better. There was just too much moisture in Alcatraz. I spent a couple of hours with the box blade and manure forks and cleaned up Alcatraz. I now have two piles of mud, straw, hay and poop that will need to be moved out and mixed in the new barn floor contents when the barn gets cleaned out. I really need a manure spreader but they are expensive. I need a good used one, which leads to the I need a welder discussion as stuff keeps breaking and I need to be able to repair it.
It took me about 10 hours between two days to get the upper prime squared field all cleaned up. I used the manure forks to pick up the large piles and used the arena groomer to pick up the low grass and spread out the mud. The grass is trying to grow back but cannot get through the mat of mud and grass left by the flood. I had to go over each section repeatedly as the groomer would fill up with grass fast. I made two big piles out in the middle of the field and took everything close to the water over to my berm I am constructing alongside the spring. The berm is going to be 2-3 feet high. The water here only got about 18-24” deep so I think it will be enough to keep the water going to where I sort of want it. This should lead to only about 1/3 of the field getting flooded and none of the next field being flooded. Don’t get me wrong, I still installed flood break points in the cross fences just in case it does jump my berm. I don’t want to have to come back and redo all this fence again. The built in weak points will keep the whole fence from getting flushed down or pushed over.
The manure forks have been another amazing purchase! If I knew how handy they would be I would have done it years ago. The best part is they only cost $250! I have used them extensively to help clean up the flood debris and am actually looking forward to how they work when I clean out the barn. I may be able to just drive in scoop out some stuff and drive out with it instead of trying to push it all out one of the two doors and then pick it up with the tractor. If the rain ever stops the barn will get cleaned out.
Today was the day, in eight hours we got the entire orchard fence torn out, leveled off and reinstalled! Now it did take three of us to do it but Mr Professional spent the first three hours spraying thistles while the Future NASCAR Driver and myself did actual manual labor and tore out the fence.
Mr Future NASCAR Driver and myself first had to clean up all of the flood debris. My contribution was driving the tractor as we used it as a wheelbarrow. We did have to skid out a couple of logs with the tractor and we had to pull the bridge from the barn lot away from the fence! It managed to travel about 100 yards through three fence creek crossings before catching on the fourth fence line. It is still intact, I am going to create concrete footings for it and just drop it back in place in the barn lot! Once we had all the fence down and all the debris on the burn pile I used the tractor to tear up the ground and create a nice even slope. There were a couple of high spots and one spot where we lowered the ground level almost 12”. I used all that dirt to fill in the very large hole in the ground from the flooding. I was able to build back two feet of dirt line. When I combined the new dirt with moving the fence forward about 10” the new fence went right in.
Future NASCAR Driver and myself hand dug three railroad tie holes and Mr Professional came over and did the fourth. We created two H braces on the left of the new breakaway section and one to the right. The center 16’ section is suspended by a 1/4” cable between the H braces, it is clipped at the bottom with a flimsy clip that will only hold about 300# of material. I then took another 16’ panel and laid it under the breakaway and had to bend a 10” section upward at 90 degrees to cover the U shaped bottom. That section was clipped with heavy duty clips to the breakaway section then about 1500# of rocks piled onto the panel laying on the ground. When the water hits the upright side it will create a dam and the water will push the bottom out and wash away the rocks allowing the panel to lift up and allow the water and materials to pass through the fence with minimal to no damage to the fence. This is my hope and wish and dream.
As we were cleaning up and trying to get three rigs back out to the machine shed I asked the Future NASCAR Driver to move the pickup. He doesn’t drive. So I gave him the low down on the tractor. He was not super comfortable with it but I figured he could get the 4’ wide tractor over the 10’ culvert. Mr Professional had him drive the side by side as there is only a gas peddle and a brake pedal and he still had to holler at him to only use one foot and touch one pedal at a time.
We started the burn pile on our way out of the field and moved the bridge to behind the barn.
We did attempt to put the sickle mower on the tractor but I had bent the three point hitch adjustable bar earlier last week or the week before and did not have a replacement on hand. We managed to get to D and B store 2 minutes before they closed. I got the part and will be mowing hay first thing in the morning. We are going to work on the far barn lot fence. Once it is done we will be able to sort the cows in Alcatraz and let the bull out with the female cows, let the ram out with the sheep after we sort off the cull ewes and female lambs and let the main sheep herd down with the cows. I won’t be much help this weekend as I will be covering night shifts at work. I will try and help out when I can in between sleeping.
Sunday started off with another surprise, another fairly new calf! This one has white on it also and has a white heart shaped design on its forehead. The other heart headed calf has been named “Valentine” so Annmarie wants to call this one “Cupid”. We are fairly certain that those are the last two calves and as soon as we sort off the young heifers we will turn the bull loose back into the main herd. This will give us a calving date next year of March 2021.
After breakfast, I caught up on thee blog. I would like to spread them out a little more but its hard to write when you work until 2200 then shower and need to go to work the next day. I take notes for every day I work on the farm now so I don’t shortchange myself and take credit for the things I actually did. I then did the dishes, emptied the compost, emptied the dishwasher, started Roomba and finally ran out of excuses to go outside and build fence.
I grabbed a roll of new wire (my last one), an old 2×6 board, two charged batteries for the sawzall and two cow panels. I used the hitch on the pickup to pull the cow panels behind me out into the field. First thing I did was install the bird cross posts. I am unsure if the birds will use them but I climbed up the post and installed them. I made sure to crawl up first before I pounded all the T-posts into the ground and hammered in staples for a few hours. I needed maximum strength and my lackluster enthusiasm is not helping, I am so looking forward to going back to work this week, I need the rest.
I rolled out and stretched new woven wire. I installed a smooth wire over the top of the woven to hopefully keep the horses from crushing my woven wire at the top. I got the new side all clipped in and even installed a 26’ breakaway section near the ditch using cow panels. They are anchored at the top and then nailed along both sides from the back so that the water pressure can just pop out the staples and the panels will lift. I have a total of 42’ of breakaway frontage in this section of fence alone. My goal is to install at least 16’ in every cross fence. I opened the gate and called the sheep through, called Annmarie to verify the horses location and shut the gate. The sheep and horses are officially stuck in Prime field. I even hung the panel across the ditch and clipped it in place. The left side of the fence still needs clips and wooden stays installed. Once that is done then its onto the orchard pasture so we can get it fixed and sort the sheep. I was back in the house by 1600.
I showered and was upstairs in our closet and spotted a critter out on the ram pasture, it was a rock chuck! Our score, Steve 1: Annmarie 1, on dead rock chucks is even, not that I am counting mind you. So it was crucial that I get outside and make the kill. I jumped into my slippers, grabbed my 17 HR and ran out the back door making sure to not let the door make any noise on the way out. Unfortunately for me the sheep and horses are in the barn lot and I had to pick and choose my shot. I missed twice! Now in my defense I did not use a rest and my arms feel like rubber after all the hard work this weekend. They are living under one of my rockcribs down by the back creek and they will dig out underneath it and cause it to fall or lean over. Annmarie shot this photo below for posterity. The second coming of Sasquatch!
I started Saturday morning by going out to the freezer to get butter, we were out and I had said I was going to do that the day before. More importantly, one of the horses was laying down in the ram pasture, I walked out and she let me pet her while she stayed laying down. Most of the time the horses will not allow this, they stand when you approach them. I did get the butter this time! I had a slow start, had breakfast with my mother at our house and then headed out to work on fencing. I need to get the animals off of the fields. As I was headed out to the fields I stopped at the culvert and scooped out most of the gravel from the back of the pickup. This lightened the pickup and the culvert crossing needed it. I like to do little parts at a time on projects, some would even say I flit from project to project but it works if you keep after it. Unfortunately its not very timely.
I ended up pulling most of the T posts from the first section of fence, splicing in an old section and then tightening the whole thing. This sounds fairly straightforward, but I had to remove all the clips from the broken T-posts and pull them out of the ground by hand. I finally got it all up and then decided to stretch a single row of smooth wire on the top. The horses keep leaning over the fence and bending the woven wire I am hoping the top strand will stop that or at least lessen its impact. I then installed cable and a 16’ brake away section to the middle of the fence. If it floods again I want the fence to give! I went over to the front spring and worked on tightening H braces and putting in cross boards. I was going to reuse the old fence but I was going to have to splice in 2-3 sections and it is just not worth the time necessary to accomplish the task, I will use all new. While I was working on that I decided that the ditch needed to be dug out as it still has flood mud and cut grass piled up in it. I stepped down and the bottom of the ditch was firm. I just need to drive the tractor into the ditch and I can reach up with my fancy new manure fork and get the junk away from the fence. I went down to the machine shed and put the box blade on the tractor then went in for dinner. I had a plan and after dinner it would be executed.
Annmarie was headed into the hospital for rounds and it had just started to rain slightly and she questioned my wisdom in going back out to dig in the ditch. It’s fine, I just put on a neck warmer and a jacket. First thing I did was dive right into the ditch with all four tires, within 10 seconds I realized that this was not the smartest move I had made. Unfortunately, I seem to have these thoughts on a fairly regular basis. It took me about 20 minutes to get out and I had to use the bucket to pull myself out of the ditch. I then ditched the manure forks and started to dig out the ditch with tractor bucket. I had a neighbor offer their small backhoe to help clean up the flooding problems. I am going to have to take them up on it later in the summer to dig out the ditch and silt and grass that has piled up. I am going to use the mud and weeds to create a berm on the North side of the ditch. This way if the upper creek jumps its bank again it will flood out the upper two fields but protect the 1.75 fields. It will also create a boundary so we don’t fall in the ditch with the tractor (done that already this year). I am going to widen the ditch slightly and dig it down another foot. While digging out the ditch in the rain I spotted the double rainbow and took a picture, it was beautiful!!
Friday was spent haying some more. Annmarie spotted a female calf from our bedroom window and then when she looked with the binoculars there was no ear tag! We knew the cows were hiding more calves but had finally given up and figured they died. Nope, now I need to tag it, luckily its a girl. I managed to only shear two shear bolts all day, one upper and one lower. The upper ones are a lot easier to fix! I like to take my fiber directly from the soil. The coffee gets pretty thick when the dust starts to fly.
Mr Professional and the kid started picking up bales from the field. I think they are dry but Friday night I started to hit some wet patches. I truly do not want the barn to burn down. After much discussion I am again using the horse training corral to store hay in. They are out in the open, and since they are wrapped they won’t absorb a lot of moisture. This was the best plan and the safest.
The micro hay equipment is nice, once you get used to it! We are learning a few things, like don’t row the hay or make the rows too high. If you do drive over the hay rows watch the drive shaft picking up hay and wrapping around the driveline. You will need to cut that off before it becomes a problem or it will stall out the tractor and it is a lot harder to get out when it is jammed in there. Rocks are bad, the baler does not like them. I am going to have to pick up rocks in the far upper field. There are too many loose big rocks, even fist sized is too big. The netting wrap is great but you really have to pull on the cord for about 3 seconds to get the friction roller engaged. Once the bail is wrapped a couple of times you can let go and the machine does the rest. The hydraulic rear lifting is amazing. This is crucial when something goes wrong or you shear a bolt. On the other the hydraulics were self contained and the pump was reliant on the pto so when you sheared a safety bolt and needed to lift the back of the baler it had to be done by hand and its very heavy. Keep lots of shear bolts on hand, I recommend 36 of each kind. It’s a stupid reason to have to stop and go to the hardware store to try and find them. They are hardness 8.8 which is hard to find, everything easily obtained was harder and you don’t want a harder shear bolt. Clean out both sides of the baler every time you shear a bolt. This is probably overkill but you have the covers off anyways and it makes me feel better. Clean off the equipment every night with the hose, get all that stuff and dirt off your machine. Remember the bale counter is triggered every time you lift the tailgate on the baler so if you keep breaking stuff and lifting the back the count can be off by quite a bit. You will need to count bales when you load them unless you never do anything wrong and all goes smoothly. I have been unfortunate and have not had this problem. Don’t take a super tight turn as you can catch the pto shaft with your rear tire, this is not good. Don’t be surprised when you start out if the bale rolls forever. It takes a bit to learn how to work the baler, we have some bales with 30-40 layers, they will be very hard to get into. The average is about 8 wraps very reasonable.
The kid left early afternoon and Mr Professional was done loading hay, so he went out to bale hay while I went out to pick up bales. I went up to the far field and picked up the triticale. We got 61 bales, 2400# not exactly a whopper crop off of 3 acres. Between the flooding and my inexperience in prepping the field in the fall and planting it it was very lackluster. I tried to pick up rocks but there were a lot and the pickup bed was full of gravel for fencing, the hay and rocks were starting to cause the safety chains to drag on the ground. I need to do some serious rock picking up here. I will break out the arena groomer after the next cutting and work this field smooth and pick up rocks.
When I got to the barn I realized that I had not disposed of a winter’s worth of hay cord, that took a while to get them into old feed sacks. I then had to move last years hay over to the front so we will use it first. It is old and dry so I will use it as feed/bedding once we get the barn cleaned out. I unloaded trailer and was about 50% done when it started to rain again. Mr Professional came by and helped me unload the trailer, I stacked it until there were 10 bales left and I just called it quits! I was beat and tired and done for the day it was dinner time anyways. We only got 7/100” of rain Friday night.