Hay equipment is here!

Well, the much needed hay equipment is here. It arrived on Friday. I had Tex come out and start cleaning up fencing scraps and wood scraps. We have them strung all over the farm from doing all the fencing, since a scrap guy is coming I want to try and get all of it cleaned up, sent away or burnt. The new burn pile is already starting to grow. They tried to deliver the equipment on Wednesday but I was not available for a 4 hour window and told the clerk on the phone that they came at the end of the four hour window last time and if they would do it this time I could do Wednesday. She said no, I had to be there the entire four hours. We pushed out the delivery day to Friday as I knew Tex or myself would be available. I had to go into work that morning and was hoping to be done by 1100. They called me at 1040 to say that they were ready to deliver and in Pilot Rock! I called Tex and went home ASAP. There was three pieces of equipment delivered, the mower, the power rake and the baler.

There were some issues, the company over sold the mower I wanted so I have a loaner mower, it’s a little smaller and does not condition the grass. It’s cheaper should I decide to keep it. The round baler is smaller and only bales about 90 bales an hour vs 120 on the one we want. The one we want still has to come over on a container by ship from Italy. All of this stuff is made in Italy. We had to keep all the shipping material so that the baler and mower can be shipped back to the company when they send us our mower and baler.

I had visions of just backing up to the equipment with our quick hitch system and hooking up to everything and just putting it in the machine shed. This did not happen, as not a single piece was capable of using the quick connect. I kept trying, finally Tex told me I had to take the quick connect off the tractor and hook directly to the three point hitch.

You can see that it almost wants to do it, it just needs a couple more inches. I took pictures and sent them to the company asking for a fix. What good is a quick connect when you cannot use it? Prior to this round of equipment I had four pieces for the tractor and three of them can use the quick connect. This makes switching out a couple of minutes and that includes parking it in the correct storage spot. Now that we have four more pieces of equipment the quick connect can only work on 3/8 pieces. This is not acceptable. I ordered 8 adjustable pins that I can bolt on myself. They are about 2 inches longer so I will gain 4 inches total. Looking at the pictures I think that four inches is going to be plenty. I also ordered a box of various locking pins to hold the equipment on. The cleaned out machine shed is amazing!! There is still quit a bit of dust but I am hoping that when I get the plywood up on the hay side I can start to contain the dust. I may drag a hose out and wet down the gravel, maybe even spray down the entire inside of the machine shed to give it that once a centennial cleaning.

The old floor scale that Annmarie’s dad got from PGG has all the parts, I really want to install it and put all the pieces together. I will need a level poured concrete pad about 4×6 feet first. Next year I may do it. It shouldn’t be too bad, I can use sacrete and I have the mixer. I can just use a piece of cow panel as the rebar.

Zeke got out of the yard twice this week so Tex and I removed all the old scrap wood and fencing that was leaning up in the corner of the yard. So now there is no ramp for him to use as a launching platform over the fence. I also went and dug down the piles of dirt I had placed near the side fence.. He had a 18 inch launching platform to go over the fence. Since doing that on Friday, he has not been able to get out of the yard a single time. Who knows if it is a lack of opportunity or just an unwillingness to leave. Time will tell.

Reality check

Well it has been a long week. I didn’t get to do all my farm work this last weekend as I had to work all weekend at the paying job and Sunday was Easter. I had come home twice and found the sheep out in the stubble field eating volunteer wheat. It has been too wet for them to spray it down. The sheep really appreciate the extra feed. The only real problem is the field is not fenced off from the road and the sheep are not supposed to be out there. The first time I thought it was the gap at the gate. I thought this because the gate post was loose and there was a gap with sheep hair on either side so it was fairly obvious they had been pushing through. I patched that up with a spare gate filling the gap and some bungee cords. It was only supposed to be temporary so the bungee cords are okay. I came home several days later and spotted the sheep out again. I could not figure out how they were getting out. I cruised on down the fence line and found as spot they had started to squirt through. The nice thing about them shedding is it makes it fairly obvious where they are sneaking out.

I had Tex come out on Friday and add two more strands of wire to that fence. He also moved the railroad tie so there is no gap at the gate. We still need to add in a few wooden stays to the fence to stiffen it up so the sheep cannot push their way through.

We had a rain storm and it cut a rivulet into our new flower area. I think if I pile some dirt up on the frontside of the rock wall I may be able to slow this down. I may end up laying in a French drain on the front side of the rock wall to help. I am unsure exactly what I am going to do.

We had to start putting Zeke on the run as he kept sneaking out of the front yard. I had convinced myself he was running up some wood stacked in the corner of the yard. I moved some of the pile but he was still getting out. One day when Sarah was out moving dirt she watched him army crawl under the fence below. He laid down in the water with just his head and nose out of the water and got under the fence.

So I added another panel to the bottom that goes all the way to the spring bottom and he cannot crawl through now. I was so convinced of this that I left him off the run the next day. He got out! I still don’t know how he is doing it so he is back on the run when we are not home.

I spent two nights working on the barn lot fence. We added two more wooden posts and I took the extra panels I had laying around and added them. There will be no more calves jumping through the fence because they can. Now we just need to get the fence over by the lamb shed completed and the sheep will be stuck in the barn lot whenever we shut the gate.

Fencing fury

Sunday we decided to start with fencing and hope we could get some parts completed. We went to the fencing supply pile and snagged the last of the railroad ties. My supply pile is getting pretty sparse. I only have one roll of woven wire left, no wooden fence posts and two rolls of smooth wire. We managed to get the last five stood up and my little tractor managed to get them over to the barn lot, but it was not pretty. The chain stretched with the weight of the railroad ties and they went all cattywonkous.

We used the two heaviest ties for the gate crossing the culvert bridge. The tractor was only able to dig those holes about 18″ and I dug the other three feet by hand. It makes for a very sturdy post when it is set in gravel. We are setting all wooden posts in gravel now. They just hold up better and stay stiffer. The gate opening was 16 feet which is a long gate. These gates usually sag so I went into the barn and found one of those wheel attachments and we attached it. I snagged three of them at a yard sale a couple of years ago. This is the first time I have gotten to use one. The real problem came when we tried to attach the gate to the post. We hooked in the bottom part and then swung the gate to see how it moved. Nope, I needed to take some dirt down to make it level.

I spent the next 1.5 hours cutting into the hillside in an attempt to get a level path for the gate. We hand dug it a couple of times and kept marking the path with the gate wheel. I finally had to go dump off the tractor auger and install the box blade. I should have done it an hour earlier.

I spread the dirt out all over the area in an attempt to cover the rock face that keeps trying to jut out of the ground and we made sure the animals can get to water. We also chained the panels together to make sure they stay in place.

As an added bonus we got two solid wood posts installed in the barn lot cross fences and will. Be tightening both of those fences next week. Once we get the culvert and last outer water damaged barn lot fence done next week the entire barn lot will have been redone and should be good for another 7-10 years with just a little repair.

I even got the momma/baby area leveled out. I want to toss out some grass seed this week after work and see if it will grow. Annmarie had me take the dogs out with me as the sheep were mowing our yard. I came inside that evening with a hoarse voice as I had to keep hollering for the dogs to come back or to quit harassing some animal. I even made them stay in place for over an hour a couple of times. It’s good practice for them and they don’t like to do it so it did work out well as a training exercise. My voice is not cut out to holler and swear all day. I am good with that for short periods of time only. We have decided the only dog working videos I can post are sped up and make me sound like a chipmunk. No one can understand what I am saying!

Our current numbers are as follows:

2 death

6 bummers

14 singles (37%)

19 twins (50%)

5 triplets (13%)

38 ewes birthed

57 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

1 lambs to process

Production rate:

Birthed 176%

On our farm and alive 155%.

Ready I think

I am focused on getting the upper fields ready for planting. I finished the discing yesterday. I now have to get an expert opinion out to look at the fields and tell me what to do next. I want to get the alfalfa fields planted this month. After they are planted then we will start working on getting financing arranged to buy our haying equipment.

I ordered the wood to fix the roof in the machine shed. I broke a couple of boards last year when I was trying to move the large bales in and out. So I should be able to fix the damage soon. I want to bolt the new beam in place so the upper wall cannot pull apart. I may even bolt the upper beams at the front and back of the opening so it is done in three places. We will need to line the walls with plywood or use 2×4 fir strips every 12 inches so the new small bales don’t push on the outside boards covering the buildings.

Mouse was being a good boy and listening. We were waiting for Annmarie to push the sheep past us. We were in place to keep them from circling around the barn lot instead of going out the gate and out onto the upper hillside. Once the sheep spotted Mouse they turned and went out the gate, without him they would have just ran right by me.

I always wear a hat when I am outside but sitting on the tractor can make for a dusty experience. I don’t like the dust masks so don’t use them much. It seems like every time I look at myself I have less hair on top of my head! I am not sure why my mother says I need a haircut every 2-3 weeks. It may be time for a beard trim though… I asked Annmarie if I would look younger if my beard was all brown. She told me to just dye it. I cannot bring myself to do it. I would rather have custom done coffee beans before spending a dime on personal appearance grooming things. I could get a free haircut every 2-3 weeks and still manage to hold off 2-3 months before getting one. I guess I am just not very stylish. I asked the puppy his opinion and he didn’t care one way or another. So I guess I will keep it this way.

Fresh beef coming

I have been busy and am having a hard time working on the blog daily. I have gone to the weekends as I can carve out the time. It allows me to think about the work that has been done and see how we are moving forward. I still like the daily blogs but after dragging myself in and cleaning up, I am tired and it is proven that I don’t write very well when I am tired. Annmarie says it is possible to read my emotions when reading the blog. Sometimes I am short and factual but other times I see it. I am still not convinced but I have come to enjoy writing about something I love. It’s not always glamorous, its not always humorous but it is honest. It’s the real trials and tribulations that happen on a farm. We have worked hard to learn about what went on and why things were done by the families that lived on this farm before us. A diary of the farm would have been a treasure trove of information. I guess in a way this is my dairy and contribution to future generations of the Gilliland Century Farm. This is our part of the story and I want those families to love it as much as we do. We work every day to make this place our own, we work every day to repair and build onto the work done over the last 114 years. It is a daunting thought to think that it really has been that long and we are continuing the tradition. Every year we try to become a little closer to self sustaining. I think we will make it in the next three years. I am going to boldly proclaim this goal!! Because, honestly, its just words for now, the real work will be documented here in this blog.

The butcher is coming to the farm soon and we needed to sort cows. We had kept the four boys off of the main herd of cows but Donna had spotted a new calf. Annmarie and I spotted it when we came home from our coast visitation/vacation/restacation. This means we need to run in the cows, and deal with the new calf. On the last calf we waited too long and the nephew and I could hardly hold him down while we tag and banded him. We now have large banding pliers with oversized bands that will fit a calf up to 250#. I personally do not want to wrestle with a 250# calf in an open pen with no rope and only two men.

We do have a real roping rope and we have a real short chunk of rope to tie the legs. We watched a YouTube video on how to tie up a goat and I have forgotten about 80% of what we learned. I find that to really cement a YouTube lesson one must watch it, then go out the same day or next and practice it for real then go back and watch it again. I did not do that. I figure that if I can learn to shear, trim feet and teeth on an alpaca from YouTube I can lean almost any animal husbandry from it. I do realize that YouTube is not an expert but if you are careful you can find good information. Trial and error is the best teacher.

We had to run the four boy cows into the corral first then sorted off the 8 month old to leave in the corral. He gets to rejoin the main herd and the other three got pushed into the upper prime field. They get to have a butcher visitation next week. We have already sold all three live animals.

We took the dogs with us and I even remembered to grab the 30 foot lead rope in case a dog got super exuberant when we worked the cows. I set the lead down on the corral while working the first set and did not remember it until we were on the back hillside headed down to get the main herd. I never manage to actually bring the lead when needed. The cows were down by the school house, farthest distance from the house possible as usual. I took Zeke down and rounded the cows up while Annmarie stayed on the hillside with Mouse. Mouse did not like this arrangement and ran down to me. We really needed the lead rope. The calf was fairly young, probably only a few days old. We are guessing this because it was still very curious. We had a hard time herding it as it kept wanting to come see us or the dogs which caused the momma cow and the bull to get agitated. Eventually we ended up getting the cows into the barn lot. Annmarie and Zeke pushed the sheep out of the barn lot then we pushed the cow herd into the corral. This was not too bad, the green ear tag cow did not want to go, she never does. We have at least three more cows that are super pregnant and should have more calves in the next two months. The summer births are way better for the calves with this breed of cow. We got the cow and calf isolated to one pen and then got the momma into the chute so we could touch the calf without her being able to touch us. I asked Annmarie to film us but she was irritated as I did not have all the tools ready and had to make a barn run. It went very smoothly, I got two testicles and I used the right color of ear tag and I even remembered to tag the calf in the right ear as we will be selling it. Keepers get a tag in the left ear. We then put pour over fly medicine on the cows. The flies should be going away as soon as the weather turns.

We discovered that last year we missed a steer. I realized this seems near impossible, but it is easier than you think. So we sorted off another cow for the butcher. We will be stocking our freezer this year with beef it seems.

We managed to do all of this in under two hours. This is very good and the dogs made it all that much easier. Zeke had snuck off while we were in the corral the first time working the cows but as we headed down to the school house he appeared down by the pumping station. Mouse was a good boy and waited for us.

I have been trying to get the two upper pastures disced and knock down the weeds. I seem to be tracking in a small bucket of dust every time I get on the tractor. I am closing in and hope to be done this weekend. I spent about 14 hours at the beginning of the week going around in circles. I change it up occasionally by going in a rectangular pattern and if I am feeling adventurous or in an odd spot I will even go in a figure 8 pattern. Its not very riveting but I have found that a book on tape is the best thing for this kind of work. Its way better than music for keeping my brain engaged. The mistress is no worse for the wear. Not a single new dent or scratch from the tip over. I really need to take a few hours this month and give her a bath, repaint the hood as the horses took another bite out of her. I may even take a hammer and see if I cannot beat the dent out of the hood. The hood latch is very hard to work and I may need to do some adjusting but that probably won’t happen as long as I can make it work. The roll bar lights on the right side are missing and need to be replaced. I suspect I will need new tires in a year or two. I am pretty happy with my little John Deere tractor. It has made my life a lot easier and I would recommend a small tractor for any small farm. It is a must.

Internet dreams do come true

Last week a five year dream came true, we now have actual high speed internet! On Monday they hooked up our unlimited fiberoptic cable driven internet. Our double modem wireless network is running at 50MBS. Our TV and computer are hardwired directly into the modems and running at 700MBS+. I was able to upload pictures for the blog in under three seconds. If it was possible before it would take 5-10 minutes and it was glorious.

We were able to watch TV and did not have to go around the house and put all our devices into airplane mode. I did not even realize that when you surf the Netflix choices that the movies actually play a small preview, at our house these were always static and never moved. The picture is super clear and not pixelated, this takes TV watching to a whole new level for me.

We got our first green egg from the baby chickens late last week. I fully expect more green eggs to show up now. The eggs will be smaller for about a month before they become normal sized. We need more eggs so they can start paying their way. The last of our hay from the upper hay field was brought down to the house. We now have 24 bales to feed this winter. Next year we will have only alfalfa that we will have bailed. We went on vacation to visit friends on the coast. Sarah watched our house over the weekend. She called one night because the dogs were trying to tear out of their kennels. We told her to let them loose out into the yard to get whatever it was that was upsetting them. They tore out into the yard and eventually came back to the house. The pup slept on the foot of her bed and our older dog slept across the doorway. We didn’t figure she would have many problems with them around.

More of the same

Sunday I was back at the field. This time it only took 30 minutes to get the tractor ready and get up to the field. We are getting ready to love us some high speed fiberoptic transmitted internet! Here you see the fiberoptic cable coiled up and ready to go to our house. Annmarie tells me that in one week we will have it up and running in our house! It could have been sooner but we opted to have them bury the cable in our yard and install two routers inside our house with direct hard wire to the fiberoptic line. It will be amazing. We have even heard rumors that some of our neighbors are inquiring about having it added to their house now. I spent another 8 hours on the tractor again. It would have been a straight shot but a couple of hours into it Zeke showed up to the upper field. He loves eating voles but its not safe for the dogs to be up there currently. So I walked him back to the house and discovered that he had pushed on the panel going into the ram pasture. The bungee had broke and he figured it out causing an opening to near the top. I closed it and tied it shut. But no Mouse or Gizmo anywhere in the yard. I figured they had used the same hole but when I walked up to the front fence I discovered that Annmarie had not latched the gate into the corral and Mouse had pushed on the gate and opened it up. The other two dogs used that opportunity to sneak down to Grandma’s house and ate cat food. I pulled weeds on the front hillside and hollered for the dogs occasionally. Mouse came back first and Gizmo showed up about ten minutes later. Once everyone was back in the yard I went back out and started to go around in circles. I managed to get one field completed and started in the next one. There was an old hay elevator parked up there that I grabbed with the tractor and pulled back to the house. The two flat tires were no match for my mistress! The elevator is an old pto belt driven thing probably from the 1950’s. I need Annmarie to tell me scrap or front yard decoration. There is still some 4 inch mainline irrigation pipe buried alongside the fence in the upper 7 acre field. It will have to be dug out by hand. It is resting nicely where it is for now.

We have been feeding the sheep for about 2 weeks now and they have all put on weight. The pasture we were keeping them on had no nutrition. We have not let them out on the back hillside because of the coyotes. Losing three of them has made us cautious of just letting them roam free. If we do that then we still have to bring them in every night. So for now we are having to feed hay. This is cutting into our winter feed stockpile and I am going to have to buy another four tons of hay to get us through the winter.