Vacation day 1

Its Tuesday and my first day of vacation! I have a very long to do list to get done in the next two weeks and a tight schedule. So things need to go smooth so it can get done!

I went up to the far upper field, 7 acre, first thing in the morning with the intention of burning. I had already called the burn line to leave a message and my burn permit information. I had notified the local fire department and I had gone to the minimart and purchased 19.6 gallons of propane for my 20 gallon tank.

I decided that the 7 acre field had plenty of detritus and was ripe for burning. The only real problem with this was it had rained the night before. I had high hopes for a large amount of flames! Tex is back and was going to come out in the afternoon so I wanted to burn these fields up and be ready for some manly bonding. Instead there were some performance issues. Despite the fact that I was using a propane torch and the wind was blowing around 10 MPH I could not get the fire to go! I kept trying but only the underbrush would catch and even then only when I held the flame directly at it and held it in place. On the off chance the fence line would be better I lit it on fire and it actually burned! This led me to burn the entire fence line around the 7 acre field and down along the road. If nothing else this just created a larger safety zone around the field for when I can actually burn. I spent all morning flaming the weeds and crisping my eyebrows. I was never in fear of actually catching myself on fire this time as I was wearing long sleeves, leather work boots, leather gloves and an all natural fiber jacket. No man made acrylics any where on my body this time!

Tex called to say he was headed out and wanted to know if he could bring his dog! He has a four month old puppy called “Daisy”, she is a red Heeler, cute dog, very friendly but very much a single people person dog. She lays around and watches him all the time, never very far away. She did pretty good with our three dogs, Zeke just ignores puppies, as they are an annoyance. Gizmo did not want to be low man on the totem pole so he was the most aggressive. They were all laying around within an hour of arrival.

Tex and I spent a few hours ripping out the side fence for our yard. The sheep had broken the post off and the gates were held in place with multiple boards propped up at an angle. I really did not want to go through a winter like that and more importantly it was on the honey-do-list!

We kept the corner post as it was an old railroad tie and still very stable. The mistress and I kept working the future fence line with the box blade in an attempt to get a fairly even surface. We weren’t trying for a level surface, just even. There was a lot of debris and old fencing to move out before we could even tear down the fence. I will need to get that fence over to the scrap metal pile.

I left for town after we were done so that I could pick up all the necessary supplies to build a new fence. I found everything but it seems excessive to spend $1000 on 100′ of fence with two gates installed. We are going to do it as we still need a way for vehicles to get into our yard.

Fields are ready to burn

I made fresh fried potatoes with onions, a touch of jalapeño and bacon grease for breakfast. It was very good, after I dished out Annmarie’s portion I added bratwurst to mine and fried it all together. The brats were left over from a couple of days ago and already cooked. I knew I was going to get on the tractor and stay all day. I drug a path next to the wheat field back and forth with the disc. Mind you its only four feet wide and it takes a few passes to notice anything when there is that much vegetation on the ground and it is this dry. I spent all morning doing that and getting the last 7 acre field at the far end of the property. All the fields have bare spots around them and a second bare patch next to the wheat field. I even came up behind the machine shed and disced about an acre of ground. I picked up an entire tractor bucket of wood, metal, rocks and twine as I broke the ground apart. There was a lot of hidden stuff out there.

After I was done with the disc I went and got the harrow/arena groomer and went over everything again. The nice thing about the groomer is the tines will collect the organic material and I was able to just pull over and shake it off out of the way and go right back to clearing a path. This worked well and now I have nice flat and clean paths everywhere. It made a huge difference in leveling out the area behind the machine shed.

One might think it odd to plant that little area but I need a spot close to the machine shed that I can practice using the combo planter/seeder. I have yet to hook it up and apply power to it yet. I also need to set the seed rate and depth once I get started. I want to do all this close to the house so this serves three purposes, it gets the area all cleaned up, it lets me practice seeding and the alpaca will have a newly seeded grass area. Zeke decided to come see me around 1400 today. He jumped the yard fence and came and found me. He played out in the tall weeds and would come within ten minutes of me calling his name. The only real problem is he is being rewarded for jumping the fence. We pushed the sheep and horses back into the barn lot and I picked another bag of plums. There is about 3-5 gallons of plums still left on the tree. The cows stayed back as Zeke was hanging out under the tree with me while I picked.

Zeke was filthy and just covered in these small round stickers about 1/8″ in diameter. I got a brush and the defurminator and set to work on him. He was not happy. I got his head and neck and most of his back. He growled and snapped at me once and we had words. I told him it was his own fault. I let him go and he ran under the front porch and would not come out. Annmarie had to get him out and then she used a gentler brush and I picked them out of this fur. We spent an hour doing that. She asked me if I would bathe him, but he again ran under the porch and would not even come out for Annmarie. I went and showered and she used cheese to entice him out from under the porch. He doesn’t mind a bath and once he figured out that was all she was going to do he settled down.

Stickers are no joke. I ended up with a piece of cheat grass in my left ear last week! It is not fun.

Now I just need to get a permit for burning.

Planting prep begins

To be fair, there was a reason I slept in this morning, I was up for several hours in the middle of the night volunteering with the Quick Response Unit, so Annmarie let me sleep in. She did not want to wake me to let me know the dogs had been fed so she left a note for me in the one spot she was sure I would find it, the hot water dispenser! I make French Press coffee every morning no matter what, it tends to be the first thing I do in the morning. Now she did call and wake me up as there was a screamer lamb out in the field and she thought it might have gotten trapped on the wrong side of the fence last night. I was having a hard time sleeping in anyways, so I made a cup of coffee and a large thermos of coffee to go and let the horses and sheep out and up into the upper pastures. We have been trying to lock them in every night due to the coyotes and there have been wolves spotted nearby also.

The one good thing about staying up half the night was that I found out how to get an agricultural burn permit and what I needed to do to burn the fields. I need to do it for the weed control. Anything over 2 acres needs a permit and a burn perimeter. So I started today working on a burn perimeter.

Before I could get going I needed to clean up the tractor. I should have fueled it as I only had half a tank but if I have a full tank I can run for 8 hours and this limited my time away from the house. So I blew out the air intakes on the tractor hood, the radiator screen and the radiator. As I was contemplating the ambient air temperature and my last tractor overheat I was trying to figure out what would make the tractor heat up? Working hard, but how, pulling lots of weight? Running PTO? What about forcing the engine to work harder with less oxygen? So I popped the air filter can open and took out the air filter, holy smokes! I was able to beat out about 3# of dirt out of the filter then blew out another pound with the air hose. I was covered in ultra fine dust before I even got started. Luckily, there are two filters and the inside filter was almost spotless. I cleaned it but there was not much dirt at all, just a little skiff. I put it all back together and headed out to get the arena rake.

I thought I might be able to use it, but after fighting for 15 minutes to get it attached to the tractor and taking it down the side of the fence line twice I could tell that it was not going to work. So I brought it back, took it off and found the disc setup. I practiced in the barn lot getting the disc to work properly.

I ended up drinking a lot of dust with my coffee throughout the day but it was still good!

I ended up going around the perimeter of three fields and now have a 30 foot fire break around each field. This was me after a couple of passes. I tried to go upwind as much as possible but it seems that 50% of the time that is just not possible, so not all the brown in my coffee was creamer. The middle pasture had a nice break already from us clearing it to install the new fence. I disced up the dry ground to be visible dirt so there will be no fire creep. Last pass for this field. I got three fields done and only have one tomorrow. I did have to come in and get more fuel but that was good as I blew out the tractor radiator and intakes again. I never had an overheating problem today and it got to 92 F. On the way back I stopped at a blackberry bush to eat my fill, I had skipped lunch. They were amazing but the yellow jackets thought the same thing. I finally had to start shaking the berries before tossing them in my mouth so I would not toss one in with a yellow jacket on it inside my GI tract! After drawing blood a couple of times on the thorns attempting to get away from nasty stinging things I gave up on the berries, I had already eaten a couple of cups anyways. As I was headed in I remembered that I promised Annmarie I would pick plums from the tree in field. We got a few pounds last year from it, the first time in 12 years but this year the tree was loaded. I guess it likes all the water it can have as the new spring runs right next to it.

I moved the ladder around to pick the fruit but its in a U-shaped depression and the fruit ladder does not want to function in that environment well. I got some off the top of the tree and then resorted to lifting the tractor bucket four feet off the ground and crawling it it to use it as a platform. That first plum was super sweet and literally burst with juices as I bit into it. You can see the juice near my foot in the tractor bed! I started to fill up the 2.5 gallon bucket and tossed the overripe or bug eaten ones to the cows. One cow was wiser than the rest and he realized that there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain by coming up close.

I have no idea what type of plum these are as the tree is probably over 60-70 years old. They are golden with a rose blush and yellow meat and very sweet. I started to throw the other cows fruit as they were missing out. Everyone felt like it was safe to come over as long as I was in the tractor bucket.

My stupid chickens are getting agitated. I am pretty sure the raccoons are coming down and harassing them at night. Now they cannot get into the coop, but the windows are open and the chickens can hear them. I have metal fencing stapled over the outside of the windows to prevent them from getting in through the screens. I only had one brown egg tonight. I cannot get only one egg from 11 chickens per day, the math does not add up.

Mowing is not working

Saturday Hoss and I started out the morning by cleaning up around the machine shed. We managed to get all the junk up and in its proper place. We then hooked up the rotary mower to the tractor and I went up to the upper 7 acre field to clean up next to the cross fence. Hoss said that he could not get to the wire to tighten and attach due to all the weeds.

I ran the mower alongside the fence and got as close as I could. There is a hidden ditch near one end that I had to avoid so I did not tip the tractor over. Since I was already down this way I decided to try and mow the 7 acre field. It is one of the fields I want to plant in grass. The weeds are 4-7 feet tall and are very thick. It really needs some cleansing fire, but I am afraid to burn anything as I think it will get out of control quickly. This limits me to the rotary mower. The mower did not get choked out because all of the weeds are so dry. They don’t act like a rope when they get under the mower deck. The real problem is all the seeds and fuzz that the weeds put off clogs the air intakes on the tractor which cause the tractor to overheat.

I ended up overheating the tractor in under two hours of continuous mowing. I really need lights on the tractor so I can mow at night! I will do some research and figure out what kind and how to mount them on the tractor.

The middle field we are fencing in now does have some grass in it, I just need to get the field enclosed so the sheep and cows can get up here.

Name Game

It’s that time of year again, in the search for cheap help that works hard I have yet again reached out to my neighbors and friends. I have scored another new helper. As is tradition here at Stewart Creek Somethings he needs a name for the blog. The longer I do this the more pressure there is on me to actually pick something good! This pressure could be self induced but it is still there and even before my help arrived I was aware that today was the day I would bestow a new moniker on another fellow individual. I enjoy the permanence of the written word, once the moniker is in play it can never be taken away.

On the proposed work schedule for the day was picking up boulders from the back hillside to line the yard fence so that Zeke cannot dig under the fence. He has to go on the overhead run every day still. Mouse and now Gizmo cannot get out of the front yard. Zeke is a firm believer in making your own exit plan.

The trouble with this plan was on Thursday there was no wind and it was a beautiful day. It was the perfect burn day and I still have a 8 acre field to burn. If I wait much longer then everything will dry out and I will have to wait till next year and I don’t want to do that. Thursday night someone told me it was supposed to rain over the weekend so it was a total do over on the priorities. Zeke was going to have to spend a little longer on the run when we go to work.

The young man came out early, dressed for work, rubber boots, jeans and T shirt and a bottle of water. He only forgot leather gloves but I have come to expect that so I always have extras stashed at the house. We loaded the propane tank into the back of the pickup and went to get more propane. They could not fill it, it kept leaking. Now this is the newer propane tank, I think the gas station needs to fix the washer on their propane nozzle. I was hoping we had enough gas to get the job done. Now this young man was a fire newbie, and had never intentionally set a fire before. I had him run the hose out, gave him the 2 minute safety speech and then had him light the outer edges of the field as I drove around the edge. He walked and started with the torch, I didn’t think about just having him sit on the tailgate. He is young and can use the exercise! We lit the whole outside and then waited 30 minutes and started to light patches here and there. At one point he starts playing with his hair saying how it has “so much body”, and its fluffy. His hair is touching his shoulders, he calls it a mullet (not long enough yet) and I couldn’t take it. I told him the reason his hair was frizzy was because its burnt!! He got too close to the flames and his hair curled up on the ends! Now he wasn’t that close, I kept checking his arm hairs to make sure they were still present every time he got back in the pickup. He finished the day with arm hair and eyebrows intact so it was a stellar day. After the burn revelation he kept playing with his hair and saying how he was going to get a perm. Hence a name was born, “Perm boy”.

Perm boy and I burned along the creek, burned a stand of blackberries that really took off, we lit two piles of dead trees that had been there for years and we lit all the old patches of hay on the ground! We even burned up a broken hay bale over by the grain bins! I almost drove up on the hill and burned the old old fallen down barn but it still has a lot of dead tall grass all around it and I didn’t want that to get away. I need to get the sheep in there first and eat it all down then I can safely burn the broken up board pile that has not been a barn for 40 plus years.

Blackberries burning are pretty hot. I went down to look after it went out and discovered that they had totally filled in the entire waterway. I really need to burn out three more patches that are touching the water. If we had had a bad runoff year they would have acted as a dam and caused us problems.

We had an hour to kill before Perm Boy had to leave so we dug out the front creek in the yard by hand. It looks a lot better now. I need to continue this all the way up to the spring. Perm Boy splashed some mud onto his blue jeans and had a slight panic about them not ever getting clean again. We had the its only mud speech. At one point we had a discussion about the large dent in the door of his pickup and how to get it mostly out easily and quickly. I told him it added character to the rig. Besides every dent in my pickup was put in it by various teenagers at one time or another. He informed me that he would never put a dent in it, strong words from someone who just got his drivers license two days ago.

We got a lot done, I am going to spend the weekend discing the field so I can then start spraying weeds. Perm Boy did good, I asked him back as we still need to get rocks so Zeke can come off the run.

Burn day, commonly known as fence fire day

It was another one of those days, where I thought I was going to move forward all day long. Alas there were a few bumps along the way, there usually are on the farm. I would like to think that after 9 years I would have this down and some things would be routine but that is just not the case. For example, how hard can it be to light some weeds on fire? Seems pretty straightforward but something always comes up. I really wanted to burn the upper field but it keeps raining and with all those weeds and gaps between areas I need it to be tinder dry when I torch it and the rain is just frequent enough to stop this plan. Its not like there is nothing else to do so I opted to burn the weeds alongside the driveway.

Cattle guard, right side

I started at the far end of the driveway near the road. It had some good thick piles and everyone that drives by won’t be disturbed by 10 foot tall flames in the middle of the day. Most of the road traffic is in the early morning and evening as people travel to and fro work.

I had put a pitchfork in the back of the pickup but to pitchfork it all away from all the fence would take me a couple of weeks. The tumbleweeds are bad this year. So I opted for expediency and just lit the weeds off while they were in the fence. This has caused me some heart ache in the past with burnt up fence posts. It’s always the old frayed railroad ties that catch on fire. They always catch on fire in the middle of the post and it is near impossible to put them out. I was determined to not let this happen this year so I tried to burn around the posts and then tried burning up to the posts in an attempt to keep the heat down near the posts. Several posts caught on fire but then went out in the wind. Cattle guard, left side

There is a long driveway and both sides needed to be burned. It took several hours to get to the end of the driveway. Once I got down near Donna’s house I burned a small stretch of fence line behind her house and continued on down to the corner and around up to the fencing supplies. I decided to stop as the next stretch of fence was piled high with weeds and our nephew’s camp trailer was only about four feet from the fence line. This would not have gone over well with the camp trailer. It would have made for an impressive fire. Driveway towed the houses

The tumbleweeds were bad this year, our driveway fence is starting to lean on both sides. The wind pushes on the weeds and bends the T posts. When the ground firms up I will need to go along and straighten all the posts.

While I was burning my mother-in-law stopped to ensure that I would go feed the cows. We have this discussion on a regular basis as I think they can always go another 1-2 days, especially with this weather we are having. I agreed that I would go feed them that evening. So there was a small fire burning on the hillside when I went to feed the cows. I brought the dogs as the cows really will mug me when I try and get the feeder pulled around the big bale. The cows think that the sound of the tractor means mealtime so they always come running. Mouse is much sneakier than Zeke he likes to lay flat and silent and then leap up and into the cows. So instead of following the tractor I looked over and Mouse had decided the cows were too close to the tractor as we were driving to the far end of the field. He tried to jump on the calf! Why go for a big defensive animal when you can pick on the helpless baby? Momma was coming to its defense even as I was hollering at him to back off. I got the hay all packaged up and surrounded by the feeder and we left the cows to eat. They only had a little hay left in the feeder. They maybe could of gone another day but it was time to feed. Now this is not always the case! If I feed them too early they just waste the hay and try and eat only the choice parts of the alfalfa.

It was just starting to get dark so I decided to just look down the driveway and spotted this column of flames near the road. I tooled on down in my tractor to find one of the old railroad ties next to the cattle guard on fire. This thing had sat dormant for over 2 hours before taking off. I had to go back to the house and get some water as the fire was inside the post. This needs water to take the heat out of the post or the fire will just reignite. I want back home and grabbed my gallon plant water jugs and filled them up with water. While I was doing that my phone rang and the neighbors were being helpful and everyone that drove by was calling my Mother-in-Law to let her know that a post was on fire out by the road. As I started driving down to the fire beacon to put it out I saw Donna drive up to the inferno and spray a cloud of white stuff on the post. The fire went out but by the time she drove off and I arrived it had already started back up. I poured a gallon of water on top of the railroad tie and it all went into the middle of the tie and dribbled throughout the cracks and crevices. After four gallons I managed to get the fire out and most of the heat so it would not reignite. I stank of smoke and was covered in soot so I opted to call it a day and go inside and shower. I was in my pajamas when Sarah called me to tell me that another post was on fire! I put my coat and rubber boots over my pjs and filled up my four gallons of water and head out into the rain to put out another post. It was raining at this time but not hard enough to put out my wooden post fires. This one was in a rock crib right behind Donna’s house and was easy to get out. This would have caused me problems as I would have had to rebuild the entire rock crib.

I have decided that I need a new plan when it comes to burning weeds in the fence lines. I need to pitchfork out and around all railroad ties before burning the weeds. This will be a bunch of extra work but anything that can prevent me from replacing wooden posts every time I burn is a good thing. Don’t get me wrong, I think the cattle guard needed large 8 inch steel pipes next to it to make the fence and cattle guard look good but I could have waited another 1-2 years.

The new chickens appeared to be getting smarter. After having to put 5 of 10 into the coop every night the last two nights they all made it back inside on their own. I was ready to declare victory until I went out tonight. There huddled outside were another five chickens, not even the same five that I had put in previously. To top it all off I have 25 chickens and I am only getting 3-5 eggs/day now. I keep thinking they will start laying but it has not happened yet.

No Shave November Failure

I am a failure. I had big plans for November, one could even say bushy plans and they have been thwarted by Mother Nature. It is No Shave November and I had no intention of shaving my beard. I had to make a few small concessions, I have to trim the mustache as I don’t like to eat it. It pulls on my upper lip when I try and eat. I also had to continue to shave my lower neck. I do have to appear somewhat presentable at work. But I was going for the full beard!!

My task for the day was to burn the upper prime squared field. I knew there was not very much propane in the old burn tank. So I dropped the new burner into the bucket on its side and took it out to some close weeds. I got it lit but there was very little flame and no torch mechanism at all. I stuck it on the weeds and it did nothing. So I took that full tank of propane back to the machine shed and chained the old one into the bucket. I did throw in a shovel and pick axe also so if I needed to put out a fire I could. The weather was perfect, no wind what so ever. I started by digging a weed free fire stop at the top end of the upper prime squared field. I have yet to name the next field. I didn’t want to fire up all 17 acres at once. This gives me about 5 acres to deal with at this time. Once I had that done I fired up the torch, mine has a turbo handle that causes the flame to shoot out 4-5 feet! I squeezed that handle with the torch on my right side and drove around the field clockwise catching the entire perimeter on fire first. This made for a pretty good show but the fire kept going out in weird places. I ran out of propane about 300 degrees around the outside of the acreage. I let the fire burn itself out and then drove back. I loaded the old tank into the pickup and drove to Pilot Rock to get it refilled. Nope, there is a metal collar around the valve so if the tank falls over it won’t break the valve off, the refill apparatus needs to be about 1/2 inch longer to refill our tank.

You can see the tank strapped into the bucket of the tractor in the above picture. I saw my nephew early in the morning as he was going bird hunting. He was not impressed with my desire to burn the ideal pheasant habitat. I never saw a single pheasant run or fly out of the field when I lit it on fire.

After being unable to fill the old tank I went back to the new tank we picked up this summer. It had some weird pressure regulator and safety device attached to the tank. This did not allow me to attach the TORCH to the tank. So I took all that off and used the same connector we use on the other tank. It fired right up, the only problem is I had to switch to the pickup and strap the tank in place. The tank was almost full when we bought it at a clearance sell (thanks Penny).

I drove out and started torching the little groups of weeds. I would walk along the pickup then lay out the burn hose, burn then move it onward 30 feet, drive the pickup 50 feet and do it again. This caused me to get pretty close to the flames. I did this until 1600 when I was hot, tired, covered in ash and smelled like a chimney. I decided this was good enough. I believe I could run the discs out through here now. I had to put the pickup in four wheel drive as I was sinking into the soil it is so moist. There was no running water in the spring but I managed to burn the weeds away from the channel. This way I can go up with the tractor and dig it out. I also need to dig a section of the channel in the front run off ditch. A part of this ditch is all filled in now and it needs to be dug back out. Maybe this will keep a large section of this field from turning into a swamp. I would like to dig in two small ponds.

The neighbors came and got their cows today. I knew this cause at quitting time when I went back to the barn to feed and do night chores the bull was in our corral! I knew I didn’t do it and no one else knew anything about it. He got out of our field and got in with the neighbors cows who visited overnight. I am unsure how he got out so I will need to grab some tools, throw them in the tractor and drive the fence line looking for the hole. If I don’t find it the bull will be causing us problems.

I came inside to shower and the travesty was fully revealed. I had managed to burn off half my eyebrows, half my eyelashes (I wear glasses so not sure how that happened) and scorched my beard! The worst part was I had burned a divot out of the right side of my beard. So I had to break out the trimmers after my shower. No Shave November was NO MORE.