It doesn’t want to burn

This morning was supposed to just start out with success. I am not sure how often that really happens so I am unclear why I expect it? I went to the gas station and got the 20 gallon propane tank filled. I drove out into the field and attached the new fancy long wand onto the brass fitting I used for the short one. I turned on the propane tank and heard the gas leak at the connection I had just tightened. I redid the connection with more teflon tape and it still leaked, which is when I realized they are different size connectors. Who does that? They are made by the same company. So I had to drive back into Pendleton and find the part that would work. This time I assembled the entire thing in the store parking lot, turned on the propane, lit the torch then fired up the afterburner! The whole thing worked so I headed home. I was not going to drive home and be short a part again.

The wind changed direction every 20 minutes or so making it very difficult to decide which side to attack it from. So I just kept driving around the outside trying not to inhale too much smoke. I could not get the flames to get hot enough to drive themselves through the weeds.

I only managed to get two attempts that actually took off and went for a 10-15 minute self directed burn. I have enough burned off now that I can break out the rotary flail mower and knock everything down. Once its down I will disc it all under.

I did see our resident three deer over the weekend. They are going to be disappointed that I am burning down their hiding spot. Annmarie made me chuckle after dinner tonight. She stated that any OHSA inspector that read the blog would die inside a little every time I went out to work not the farm.

I have been thinking about how to get the 8×4 foot window into the end of the barn. That will make any safety minded person a little insane.

The baby chicks have been booted out of their chick area and left to fend with the adult chickens. Unfortunately, they are very scared and nervous. I had to hang more water in the main section of the coop for them as only one has been brave enough to leave the coop and it was too stupid to make it back in. I had to toss it back in after dark.

Burn it all

Yesterday was a burn day finally, we have had an inversion over our part of the county and the last week no one has been allowed to burn. I left the stock racks on the pickup as it gives me something to lash the 20 gallon propane tank to in the back of the pickup. Otherwise I have do do this spider web thing with 6 tie downs that never lasts the entire time. The stock racks hold it in place with only one tie down and make the tank refillable from the tailgate.

My goal was to burn the middle upper field that had no work done on it. Seven acres of prime soil waiting for me to do something with it. I had the pile that Rain Man and I had made to burn, I had a pile of weeds down by the cow feeding area and I had visions of burning weeds out by the main gate. Now my single biggest mistake was not communicating my goals to the missus. I started both piles and then ended up burning all the star thistle down by my mother-in-law’s house. I then burned weeds on both sides of the road by the entrance cattle guard.

Unfortunately, while I was doing that the fire took off up the fence line and headed up the road. I watched it for about an hour then realized that it would take another 4 hours at the slow rate it was creeping along. I tried to burn back stops twice but just managed to start a fire further up. I finally just took a pitch fork and rake and made a dirt gap then lit one side on fire. This stopped the oncoming fire and put it out so I could go to the actual field I was planning on burning in the first place.

Unfortunately, the field was not super dry so I had to keep applying flame to get it to burn. I only had a three foot wand and it was too short for the job. I was cooking my face, head, ears, beard and arms from the heat. I tried burning for another three hours until I ran out of propane and broke the burning wand, both events occurred simultaneously. I was driving the truck and dragging the lit wand backwards on the ground. Otherwise you have to turn off the gas, wind up the hose into the back of the pickup and put the wand in the back after making sure the flame is out. If you do this every time you have to move the pickup it will make you crazy. But if you don’t do something then the wand gets broken.

So I went to town Saturday evening and bought a 6′ torch! I figured I could get away from the heat and keep burning. It was dark when I got home so I would put it together in the morning. I can fill the tank after that.

I even took the second cow feeder down and filled it with a second bale. Our weather has been pretty mild but it is time to start feeding the cows.

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.