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.
Friday was the day to dig back into the hay. I even managed to get out and get to bailing by 0730. This seems late but I had to to fill the tractor with diesel, blow off the entire tractor with air, paying special attention to the radiator to get all of the dirt out of it. I have a screen filter in front of the radiator that catches all of the weed particles but the dust will clog up the radiator if you do not blow it out every day during the summer. I focused on field #2 and noticed that the rows near the creek side kept jamming the baler and then I had to stop and dig it out by hand. Yes, I do turn off the pto, turn off the tractor after I lift the rear of the baler, and I even turn the hydraulic valve closed to keep the baler open. The baler lid weighs far more than I want squishing my while my head and body are inside the baler trying to clean it out. I finally got tired of digging out jams after five times and just quit rowing on that side of the field. It has to do with my mowing job. The grass was super tall and I ended up only cutting about 70% of it so the still live grass is jamming up the baler. I need to change the blade on the sickle bar obviously. Mr Professional came out in the afternoon and turned all of the loose hay that I had not yet managed to bale. I managed to bale over 500 round bales with the Minibaler and finished the neighbors field A.
Mr Professional got a couple of young men from up the road to help us start moving the hay into the barn. The unfortunate part of this is that the hay has to go to the ceiling, which is 16 feet high! I have not welded the old hay ladder find I picked up three years ago yet so it is all done by hand. I am thinking that the ladder is going to have to become a winter project this year. I have dubbed the new helpers Mr Hustle and Mr Flow. I did the baling while they did all the heavy lifting, the people in my life who think I should still be taking it easy will be happy. I am not very good at being inactive. I have lost my popeye arms and upper back muscles. Any activity causes a lot more muscle weariness than I am used to tolerating prior to Covid. I am feeling much better, just saw the cardiologist this week and will continue meds for another three months. It is improving and for that I am grateful even if I am a lot frustrated.
Mr Hustle told me that he saw a cougar last week on our place. It was up on the rocky hillside by field #2. He watched it come off the hillside and go into the tall grass then a few minutes later all of the deer ran out of the field. They come up to the corner of the field to get a cell phone signal so tend to hang out in their cars for a while whenever they feel the need for electronic device time. There is no cell phone signal up the canyon from us, not really any even at the end of our place in spots. The only really decent cell service in the area is Verizon if you are looking for all around access any where in the state. It’s different when you are in a city but once you get into the rural areas the access can change dramatically.
I ended up jamming the baler one last time and just called it quits, I was tired of digging it out. I had an epiphany and decided to not clean it out, I just drove back to the house with it all jammed up and drove right into the orchard. I lifted the back end of the baler and locked it open. My hope is the lambs in that field will just reach in and clean it all out before I get to it the next morning.
I feel like it has been forever since I said I would be done with fencing this year but it has finally happened. I was able to finish up the new fence this weekend. It took some perseverance but I did it. While I was fencing I had an assist from the sheep in raking leaves in the yard. They also did the last mowing at the same time. The only real problem with this is they fertilize the lawn at the same time they trim it and eat leaves. This means that the three dogs have an all you can eat buffet of sheep poop and as an added bonus get to roll around in sheep urine and poop both! This makes for very odiferous pets. Its a side effect that has to be considered when weighing the benefits of not mowing.
I spent Friday stretching fence and Saturday afternoon I finished stretching fence. The only thing left was to install a gate and cover two gates and two openings with cow panels.
I opted to spend Sunday cleaning house. It was needed and I was simply done fencing. It has been a long year of fencing and despite the need to get done so I can have the fence inspected by the water conservation district for my grant, I needed a break.
On Monday, I had a new helper, code name “rain man”. We cleaned up and readied the small patch of land next to the front yard that we are going to plant Lavender in next spring. We pulled weeds and found most of the branches. I will burn them on the next burn day but we have been under an inversion so there have been a lot of no burn days.
I brought him out to help me finish the fence but our next project was lifting the back bridge over the creek. We used a handyman jack to lift up the one side then dug back into the bank to prop it up with rocks. The first time we did not have enough rocks so we went for this massive piece of old concrete that weighed 300+ pounds. It was brutal to get back up the hill then down into the hole and into position under the bridge. We did it but it was a close call to not happening.
After that we went into the barn and filled all the feeders and dug out a bale of straw. The straw was buried under bales of hay so we had to move about 25 bales. The Rain Man can sweat! He hung in there and we got the barn all ready for animals as we are going to start locking them in every night. Winter is officially here as we are now feeding them every day.
I ended up having to finish the fencing alone as the Rain Man got called into work. I did it and managed to get most of my trash picked up. Unfortunately, the tractor bucket was full so I will have to go back to get the rest of the scrap metal pieces.
Hoss came out today and we worked on setting posts. Now Annmarie got back yesterday and her list was quite a bit different than mine. Since I needed to get him started we opted for loading up the back of the pickup with gravel and driving up to set posts. I set all my wooden posts in gravel now and tamp it down with a metal breaker bar. The breaker bar weighs ten pounds and it is painful to use but the post is solid when I am done. We dug out dirt then placed the posts, I had forgotten my level so Hoss reminded me to use my IPhone with an app. Yep, it worked and all the posts got set without us having to make a special trip back for an old fashioned level.
On the 18th post, second load of gravel, my left forearm started to cramp. I was using the breaker bar and Hoss was shoveling gravel. We started alternating early on as the poor guy doing breaker bar is working a lot harder than the shovel guy. My forearm just said “we are done” and would not allow me to use the breaker bar anymore. So instead we went back down to the barn to do something else. Hoss was going to be here till 1600 so I might as well keep him busy.
I had fixed the crossing on Friday where the sheep were getting out. I really just need to move the fence line and take the water crossing out of the equation. It will take a solid 8 hours to tear out the old fence and install the new one. It’s on the list but not as high as the two upper fields.
We came down and fixed the barn floor. I took a saw and ripped off two inches in width off of the last board to be installed and we dropped it down into the opening. It left a 1/2″ gap on either side of the board but no lambs foot should be able to fall through. We then brought all the sorting chutes back into the barn and installed them. Since we were on a roll we tossed out fresh straw and cleaned up the milking area. We even made a trash run and cleaned out the trash. I have some trash left in the tack room still that will need to go out. I need to buy some large nails to install over by the windows so our temporary panels can hang neatly.
Annmarie had to bummer one of the new lambs last night. We are pretty sure its from our #1 ewe. She is our oldest herd member and she is skeletal thin after delivering twins. She just doesn’t pay close enough attention to the new lambs. The one Annmarie had to remove just couldn’t keep up. Her other lamb is tougher and more active so it manages to keep up with her. I don’t think she will live another year. We wandered the orchard and found another single lamb that had been born. I shared my cherries with the sheep and soon had 20 of them following me around the orchard. Annmarie was able to scratch on the ram after he came over looking for some attention. He is our second best ram ever.
I have been having Hoss work on the barn during the week. He usually comes out first thing in the morning and works until it gets hot. He has been digging out the barn with the tractor and by hand. I put in an hour or two after work but I am the one who tore up the barn floor with the tractor. There has been a few boards buckling near the back of the barn. I almost had to rip them out last year and reattach them to the floor braces. After I let the floor dry out they lowered themselves and I opted to leave them alone for another year. Now that I have ripped one out of the floor with the tractor I will have to pull up four rows, clean them all up, clean up the loose poop and then attach three rows Once I am down to one board only I can measure and custom cut it to fit the gap. The floor is tongue and groove and I did not leave any gaps so there is not a lot of movement allowed in the floor. On Wednesday when I went out to the barn for an impact driver I spotted a large pile of poop up against the wall below. I was just starting on Annmarie’s list of to do and thought that a few minutes with the mistress would do me good. So I climbed up onto the tractor and started to scoop up some poop.
Holy smokes! The pile was hot! It was steaming and the temperature was over 80 degrees. I ended up having to scoop up the entire pile at the end of the barn. The 8 inches of rain in one month we had caused us to have more moisture in the barn than is normal. When you dig up the floor with the tractor and leave it in a loose pile you aerate it. Once it gets oxygen with that much heat and moisture the composting process went into overdrive. So now the race is on to empty the barn. The only nice thing is the undisturbed floor/straw manure layer is so dense it doesn’t get a lot of oxygen so its not heating up. It just smells horrible when you disturb it. Hoss has marching orders to finish the barn up this week. It only needs about 6 more hours to be complete. Once it is empty we will let it sit for a couple of weeks then put all of the sorting chutes back inside. We will need to count sheep this month so our buyer will know how many we are selling. We are not even sure how many we are selling until we count them and get a feel for how big they are. He wants them on the bigger size so it limits the number we have available.
It rained 1/10″ on Wednesday. I had the lawn almost mowed but the rain put a temporary halt to my efforts. Running the mower for 3 minutes then taking 3 more minutes to empty the bag and restart the mower makes it very tedious. I would like it to rain one to two more days that much so our hay fields green up a second time.
I found this freeloader on the plywood sheets on the old house porch. I let it go under the bridge, hopefully it will survive.
Hoss disturbed one of the swallow nests in the rafters of the barn by driving in and out of the barn. The nest fell off the 2×6 it was hanging onto and the nest had baby birds. He spent ten minutes catching all the baby birds running around on the floor and put them and the nest up on the ledge inside the barn. When he came back the next day the only thing he found was a pile of feathers! One of the barn kitties probably had a bird snack after he left.