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!!
It has been a long week. The weather has of course totally flipped from having to stay home on Monday to dig out the driveway for hours to today a mere six days later driving around on the tractor in a long sleeve shirt only feeding the cows and doing work in the barn coatless as it is 50 F. This change in the weather had the Child and Annmarie out at the back creek fence trying to cut the panels loose. I have only two panels left that hang across the back creek. They are needed to prevent the sheep and cows from going up the dry creek bed in the summer. In the fall I should lift them out of the creek bed but it never seems to happen. Also, once I do that the fence line has a hole in it and the animals have to be kept out of that area. We had a sudden warming spell and Annmarie woke up to the back creek running. This is usually very bad and I end up in waders in three feet of raging water trying to undo the clips holding the panel in place from being lifted out of the water. Annmarie and Sarah spared me this by going out right after breakfast and loosening the panels, they did have to step into the ice cold water to get the center clip loose. They did not have to battle a torrent of water but they did have to get wet with the ice cold water. Two days later and the back creek has dropped to a depth of four inches. I am glad the mountain snow did not try and all melt off, it’s only January and it needs to stay until late May. Mr Professional and I went out this weekend and lifted the panels so they are ready for the spring flood. The weather also destroyed our ancient decorative windmill I had found and rehabbed and put back up. It tore off the tail and bent a bunch of the vanes. It is toast and cannot be easily repaired. I am now in search of another with sealed bearings so I don’t have to grease it annually. This is going to take some sleuthing on the internet to find one we like and think will last in up to 100 MPH winds.
Mr Professional and I got the hole in the ceiling in the craft room cleaned up and he got the sheetrock patch installed and it now has two coats of mud on it and the next coat is going to be texture! I even found some Kilz 2 upstairs to prime it after he gets the texture to match. Once we get the ceiling painted I can take down all the plastic drop clothes over everything and give the room a final deep cleaning. The room will be ready to use again after that.
We went into the barn and worked on installing some more eyebolts. I wanted to be able to set up some more jugs and to do that we had to install 2×6 boards to the wall then install two eyelets for the long pegs to drop through. We currently have enough eyelets installed to create 6 jugs and split the barn into 2/3 and 1/3, using the space under the stairs we have 7 jugs in the barn. We just need three more six foot panels to make this all happen but they are currently on back order through Premier. Once we had that done we created a baby feeding area using our Creep gate. We have never used the creep gate before so this will be a first for us. The creep gate is suppose to keep the big sheep out and only let in the size you set for the babies. When I went out tonight it did not look like any babies had been in it eating the grass hay. I put out a small dish of straight grain in the middle of the area, no momma can reach it so if its gone in the morning some lamb has figured out how to use the lamb only feeding area. I only managed to cut myself twice this weekend and Mr Professional only took one divot out of a finger out in the barn. If he would wear gloves more often this would not happen.
The turn signals and emergency flashers were broken on the pickup and all of the lights on the John Deere tractor were out. Mr Professional cleaned some stuff, changed out some fuses and got everything working again today. I had to get more fuel in five gallon containers so we had fuel. I filled up the John Deere this week and I could see the entire bottom of the fuel tank, it was dry! I don’t know how I did not run out of diesel when I was using it to dig out the big tractor. We have moved over an old 100 gallon double compartment fuel tank, I have grounded the tank and just need to get a tank fuel pump for it so I can start having diesel delivered to the house. I will probably only need the tank filled twice a year. It will be nice to not have to use five gallon jugs all the time. The old fuel tank used to be on a trap wagon they had for cleaning out combines and equipment during harvest.
I will be ordering repair parts for the hay baler this week and some more baling wrap so we may actually get them before June.
We have five creches, jugs per wife, for newborns setup in the barn. One is larger than the others so we stuff multiple day old mommas and babies in it to free up the individual jugs. Twice this week I have had to go out after work and tag and band babies to release them into the momma/baby large pen. There was simply no room at the inn to keep them until the weekend. Now when there is only one momma and a set of twins in a single jug it is relatively simple to tag and band and send a text to Annmarie with momma number, number and gender of baby(s) and their tag numbers. This is infinitely more complex when you stuff four mommas and four sets of twins into one large jug and you want to assign the correct babies to the correct mothers. I had to just sit down on the barn floor in the bedding and watch the sheep to see who belonged to whom. The easiest way is to wait for them to nurse. The mommas don’t like milk stealers and will head butt any strays to keep them away. This worked for the first two pairs but the second pairs I finally had to catch babies and just hold onto them until they bleated then turn them loose in hopes that they would run to mom. It took about thirty minutes to get them all tagged and banded. I even managed to get more baby sheep poop all over my Carhart overalls. As soon as we are done lambing it will be time to wash the overalls. They are getting all kinds of interesting substances on them.
The babies are so curious that if you just sit down on the floor and stay quiet and they will come over and start sniffing you and playing around you. This is highly entertaining and very therapeutic. It is very hard to be sad or frustrated when baby lambs are leaping around you and coming over to sniff your boots and hands. I highly recommend this course of treatment. Especially when an entire section of the barn is nothing but lambs cavorting and running around like miniature mobs.
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.