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.
This weekend some time had to be devoted to the sheep. The ewes have finally started to have lambs on a regular basis. We had ordered four more portable panels and they came. They come in two feet sections and have to be assembled. I put them all together on Friday. I had to go into town and get more grain for the ewes and mothers. We have been feeding them up for the last month. They had started to get skinny. So when I went out Saturday morning to check on the sheep I rearranged panels and built a couple more jugs. The jugs needed fresh bedding and feed buckets and water buckets filled. The mother/lamb area needed to be expanded also, by the time I was done two hours had passed.
Date of update- Feb 20, 2023
# of Lambs born – 35
# of ewes who have delivered babies – 21
# of ewes still pregnant – 23 in area, I don’t think they are all pregnant
# of single lamb births – 8
# of twin lamb births – 12
# of triplet lamb births – 1
# tagged male (weathers-neutered) lambs-11
# tagged female lambs-9
# of bummer lambs – 2
# of lambs who died in first two weeks – 1
Total # of lambs on farm -32
% birthing rate- 166%
% production rate -152%
% survival rate at birth – 100%
% survival rate at 2 weeks (bummers count as death as they need help and leave the farm) – 91%
We have a single lamb from one mother who makes the weirdest noise, it sounds like a cat! I tagged and banded him today and when I picked him up his rib cage is narrow and big. It is not the correct shape. We will be watching boy # 347 to see if he survives. The sheep are now at the annoying stage, they are super friendly and know that you are bringing good treats and they just want to be the first one to get them. We try and usher them gently out of the barn but after five minutes of trying to be gentle and quite we end up hollering at them to get out of the barn and chasing them out. There is only so much patience one can have before you realize that it is getting you nowhere and there are other things that need to be done.
Our spring is running a little muddy so I drove up the pastures to look and see how our pseudo soft spot was doing in field #2. It is pretty boggy and soft, I had to get out of the soft mud so I did not sink the tractor and there is running and standing water. There is one corner of the field that I had not marked out that is really soft. I need to mark it as off limits so in the spring when I need to cut hay I avoid that area.
I tried to start the pickup yesterday without success. Since it rained an inch and I had the windows rolled down on the pickup and it had a dead battery there was quite a bit of water inside the cab. Not horrible but I was glad I did not have to sit on the seat. So I added drive to town to my list yesterday. I went out to the machine shed and worked on an alpaca fiber cleaner (sorta tumbler). We had purchased the items several weeks ago and I just needed to assemble them. The top pops off, you toss the fiber in, you hang it up, start it spinning and hit it with the leaf blower to get the dust and debris out of the alpaca fiber so it can be spun into something. I ruined a great new large plastic bucket to make this. Annmarie has been wanting this since spring. I figured since I was going to town I should get new bolts for harrow/seeder. This turned out to be near impossible. The bolt is metric size 10x40mm with fine machine threads that happen to have a 1.25 pitch. I could not find anything with a nylon lock nut for this size bolt. It needs a lock nut and it cannot have a widened flange on the bolt as it sits down and locks into place so you can screw in the bolt without a second wrench. No way to fit a second wrench of any kind up where that nut lives. So I am going to look online and if that doesn’t work then I will order it from the tractor company who will have to order it from Italy, ugh. I cannot find a partially threaded bolt M10x40mm without a flanged head or flanged nut and nut needs to be locking, fine threads and 1.25 pitch on the internet, mind you I only spent 15 minutes looking for one bolt and gave up. Io amo I’Italia!
I was able to buy a new battery for the pickup. As soon as I had it installed I rolled the windows up! We topped off the night by Annmarie cutting an open front box for the safe and a upright for the far side on her laser cutter. The box joints are so tight it took me about 15 minutes with a nylon hammer and some assembly/disassembly machinations to get it together. I got it all installed in the old safe. Today we slipped a note and a dime from 2022 under the new carpet we installed so 50 years from now someone will know how we got the safe! The thing is still hard to get into, it only took me three tries to get it open! On average I would say it takes us about 20 minutes to get it open, it is not something you get in on a regular basis. But since we have all of our legal paperwork stuff in there and our passports the 20 minute time is a concession we are willing to pay. The top shelf is original and we added the new carpet and bottom box and right hand support. It looks cool!
I brought in all of the sheep feeders into the barn yesterday. I need to shorten them for Annmarie and the ground is wet so it was a perfect time to cut the metal outside. The problem was I could not find the right grinder. I found one but discovered I had managed to lose a piece that is necessary to hold a cutting blade in place. I had taken it off to attach a metal cleaning wheel. I finally gave up and started in on the alpaca cleaner and as I was finishing that up I found the correct grinder. It was time to go to town by then, I will get it later in the week. I kept the sheep locked into the barn lot today to see if they would spread out the grass/bedding I had tossed out yesterday. I just dumped unrolled bales all around the barn with the hope that the sheep would spread it out. They did a fine job! I did notice that I forgot to install the 2×4 board at sheep back high to keep the horse out of the barn. The horse bends down and gets into the bar with the sheep otherwise. I put the board up today. Horse poop can pile up pretty quick!
Today we ended up cleaning out the back garden and tossing it over the fence so the sheep can clean up the leavings. They will eat everything down, if the chickens are not fast they will not get any green tomatoes. Besides, the chickens don’t deserve anything special. I am getting 2-3 eggs/day from 11 hens. On top of that, one of the cheeky buggers is an egg eater! I keep finding eggs with a little hole poked in them and the inside eaten out. I am not sure who it is yet but I do need to figure it out. Annmarie gave an injured alpaca update, his eye is open. He still has an eyeball from the pictures but it looks like his right cheek may be swollen. Since we can no longer just go to the farm supply store and buy penicillin we will keep watching him.
The bull was kind enough to crawl through the fence on the upper hillside while we were inside in the kitchen today. He has a spot just past the second large wire rock crib. He just ducks his horns down to the ground, pushes forward and lets the panel rub across his back as he moves forward. I now know where to fix the fence if I ever get time to do it.
I spent Thursday on the tractor going in circles making little bales of hay for eight hours in field number one. That seven acres seems to take days to bale due to the shear volume of grass that was produced this year. At only 40# a round bale it takes 50 bales to make a ton and there is around 20 ton out in this field alone. We are counting bales as they come out of the field so we will know when the field is empty how many ton of hay were produced. The bale counter has a lot of false positives as it counts every time the dump opens up even if a bale is not discharged. I do wear hearing protection but both of us had been wearing some type of ear bud/in ear speakers to listen to music while baling. This is problematic as the baler has a siren to tell you when it is full and we cannot hear it. You also cannot hear when something changes with the equipment. You can hear most breaks or soon to be broken issues but not while wearing headphones. So instead we now have a Dewalt radio bungee corded between the roll bars on the tractor, blasting music and we wear ear muff sound protectors. This makes it much easier to hear any changes with the equipment. I know this sounds counterintuitive but it really does work!
Mr Professional came out and did an oil and filter change on the John Deere tractor. I need a strap wrench for the fuel filter before it can be changed. I have ordered this already and it should be here by next week. I had to stop several times while bailing and make adjustments to the baler. It keeps needing adjustments as the temperature outside continues to rise. Once I got the chain adjusted I had to adjust the rear hatch catching mechanism. Also the discharge spring stop weld broke so I had to beat down the metal tab three times. This has been welded with some extra angle iron added to take the continuous pounding every time a bale is discharged. We need more tools in our tool bag. We need a full set of metric wrenches, not just the 15 mm and 10 mm wrenches. Plus, I noticed a couple of holes in our tool bag, so a new tool bag is probably also in the works. The wheat field is starting to turn. They won’t be able to harvest till the end of July this year. Harvest will probably be 3-5 weeks later than normal for us.
I was going to call it a day when Mr Professional said he got someone to come out and buck hay bales with me. This sounded like a great idea so I came in and fired up the pickup and we went out to pick up bales. We picked up 100 bales (2 ton) out of field two and came into the barn lot. Unfortunately, we filled the easy spots last time and that meant all of these bales needed to go to the top of the pile. We had 10 of the 100 bales into the barn when he gets a phone call and has to leave. I ended up moving about three ton of hay farther up into the barn and then unloaded the two ton from the trailer into the barn. I was very tired by the time I was done. Since I missed dinner and Annmarie had gone into town to do some work, they had left me dinner on the stove, Mashed potatoes and meatloaf! Annmarie always adds lots of stuff to the meatloaf so the vegetables are hidden inside of it, mostly carrots and onions. I zapped the potatoes in the microwave and then doused the meatloaf in a thick layer of real ketchup. Mind you I had stripped down in the laundry room to my tighty whiteys and needed the shower but it was nine pm and my last meal was at 7 am. I was hungry. So I ate dinner on the front porch of the house in my underwear while I watched the sun go down. It was a very spectacular dinner.
I had to order more diesel. This time instead of ordering 100 gallons I just told them to fill both sides of the tank to the top and we would go from there. I think its a 150 gallon tank. The propane company sent us our annual contract, we used 346 gallons of propane last year. Interesting enough, they set our usage at 800 gallons next year therefore making our monthly contribution double what it would have been. I sure hope the price doesn’t double or our consumption double. Every since we had the coolant leak repaired our propane usage is about half of what it used to be, which is why I think they are budgeting for 800, as I suspect our usage was that high before the repair.
I was in bed trying to go to sleep over the crying puppy (we are crate training her) and the noisy frogs when Mr Professional called to say someone just pulled up to the field with a pickup, a trailer and a loader and two people were out in the hay field with headlamps on. I ended up getting out of bed, putting on my wild west attire and headed out to the field. Before I could get out there he calls back to say its the bee people. They were adding hives to the ones they already have in the neighbor’s fields. They had forgotten exactly which field but had the right location. It was directly across the road from where they were looking. I was back in bed and asleep by midnight.
It was been a long week. We had a wonderful weekend away from the farm, which does not occur very often. On Monday, I had to work late and was even later after I went to the supply store and bought woven wire for our yard fence. We have a few more weeks before the puppy arrives and we need a spot to put them initially that is not with all of the bigger dogs, so the side fence has moved up the priority list. We had several boxes on the front porch which turned out to be the wax dipped wood for our honey bee hive. It will need to be assembled. The back gate on the hillside had been left open and once the sheep discovered it they all ran pell mell for the opening. Annmarie went out and got the sheep back in and shut the gate. The back hillside has foot long grass all over it, the sheep are going to be confined to the hillside for quite some time.
Mr Professional and Mr Flex have been coming out all week to work on odds and ends and to get the hay equipment ready. Mr Professional fixed the gear inside the baler, which means I need to explore an overhead lift capable of handling 4000 pounds. It needs to be easy and safe to work on equipment. Mr Flex got the annual chicken coop cleaning done, this is never a pleasant chore. They started in on skirting the old building and our lawn got mowed twice in the same day to get the height down off of the highest mower setting. We could never get ahead of the lawn, it is very prolific this year due to all of the moisture. Mr Professional got our bee hive assembled and the rest of the parts came this week so I set it out where we are going to keep it. I need to turn the entrance so it is unobstructed. This will also put the entrance so it is visible from the kitchen window. I expect us to do a lot of bee watching this year.
We have had so much rain that the barn door warped and cupped inwards. It would not shut once Annmarie got it open. It really needs a little metal bolted to the outside to slow down the warpage. I had to go out and force it shut. It is already starting to go back to its normal shape due to some dry days this week. We got some scrap metal a couple of weeks ago and one or two of those pieces may work to keep the warpage down.
Mr Professional started cutting around the machine shop to test out the new sickle bar mower for the new tractor. I spent one entire evening into the dark turning the cut hay down by the schoolhouse. There is a lot of cheat grass down there, this makes the hay garbage but where we baled the cheat grass last year there is less cheat grass this year and more orchard grass. So we are going to keep removing it from the fields in hopes that we can decrease its abundance. We will over plant with orchard grass also. This seems to be decreasing the amount of cheat grass that is present. It is a battle but if we keep after it I think we can win. We did not cut any of the upper good looking fields because we knew it was supposed to rain all weekend long. Despite that we managed to get 99 good grass round mini bales into the barn for the winter. We are putting them up a lot wetter this year as we had some serious drying out issues last year. We just baled way too late last year after putting the grass on the ground. So we will cut smaller sections this year and not get so far ahead. Yesterday, when I came home I spent three hours helping pick up hay and get it into the barn. I never managed to get changed into farm clothes as I drove right to the field from work. I definitely need some more new gloves. I forgot what it was like to move hay with holy gloves. We feed 4-5 bales every day in the winter to the sheep.
The cows have started having babies. We had a dead calf already, not sure how it died, maybe drowned in the stream where we found it. We have two live ones maybe? Annmarie and Mr Professional claim two, I have only seen one so far. The mothers are notorious for hiding them for the first 30 days. We have opened up the fields near the mother in law’s house in hopes that the cows will bring their babies into the field and we can shut them all in.
The plan is to work on the office this weekend due to the rain. This is bad for the haying side of the farm but good for office progress!!