Weekend farming in effect

Now that winter is sort of here I am doing mostly farming on the weekends. We are feeding every night after work in the dark. I only have to feed the sheep every night. The cows are getting large bales so I only have to push them one every week. I do it twice a week so they get a new one every 3-4 days. They do better this way instead of pushing them 2 at the same time. The sheep are doing okay on the hay I baled. Its pretty weedy but I figured since that is what they eat all spring and summer they can eat it in the winter until I can get all the fields replanted and cleaned up. This has led to an extra amount of organic matter being deposited on the barn floor. I think our straw consumption is going to go way down this winter. I have to empty out the feeders every few days to get the uneaten organic matter out and I just dump it on the floor.

I went out on Friday to feed the cows and discovered a brown alpaca laying near the hay pile. I figured it would jump up and run away when I got close with the tractor, it did not do that as it was dead! So instead of feeding I used the tractor to scoop up the recently deceased and take them up the property to become animal food. We really don’t know how old the alpaca are and we have had them for several years now. This was not one we can attribute to the other alpaca bullying.

After dropping off the carcass I was at the far end of the farm and the mower was on the tractor so I went up and started mowing the field I had burned last week. Well I started mowing the portion I got burned. I estimate that at a little over 2 acres. I got it all mowed and it is now ready to disc. I am afraid that Mother Nature is going to decide that winter is really here and freeze the ground soon.

I had a list of “honey do” items that I needed to check off on Saturday. I had been promising to fix a piece of hanging ceiling trim for last 8 years. I had attempted a fix once before. I used epoxy this time so it is never going to come down.

I also worked on cleaning up our under stair closet. It was pretty badly organized, and after throwing away a lot of things and creating a give away bag I managed to make it look much better. I really need to get the power wired into the closet so I can install the under cabinet lights. This is quickly moving to near the top of the “to do” list. Our second bathroom is moving up the priority list also. Annmarie says I need to take five minutes or less in the bathroom in the morning doing my routine evacuation. I say that it should be less than 30 minutes. She does not agree with this timing. So I need to get that second bathroom up and running.

I have been compiling my new to do list for the next six months.

Tile and complete upstairs 1/2 bath

Install under cabinet lights in hallway stair closet (wire light plugs first)

Order spare parts for haying equipment

Order perf plate wall hanging organizers

Order wall organizer with drawers

Fix tractor lights

Install trickle charger on Buggy

Dig ditch in the upper upper pasture (needs to happen sooner than later)

Install culverts x 2 in upper upper pasture

Clean out leaves in yard

Install new pump on 50 gallon sprayer and secure tank in rear of buggy

Install overhead electric lift in machine shed

Wire machine shed for bay lights and two more outlets (in progress)

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.

Rental “mini excavator”

Last weekend was busy! I had planned to rent a mini backhoe. I had called the rental place and he asked if I had a trailer, I do and then he reserved some “304” backhoe. I went in first thing on Saturday and attempted to pickup said “backhoe”. He looked outside at my small 16′ trailer on the pickup and chuckled. I had been rented a full size backhoe! I would have needed a semi truck and trailer to move it. I pointed to the trackhoe I wanted and was told those are called “mini-excavators”. I got one of those with a thumb so we could clean the sumac out of the ditch. Tex cleaned up and started burn piles while I went to pickup the “mini-excavator”. I only had 8 run hours on the machine so I drove to the upper end before unloading the excavator. I wanted all my equipment time doing productive work. We got about 2/3 of the ditch cleaned out before I resorted to fire and burned out the rest.

We went and dug a ditch for two culverts and I attempted to dig a new drainage ditch but it was going to take another 4 hours of run time at least on the excavator so I had to give up. I could have used the thing for at least 40 hours and not gotten everything done on my to do list. The main reason for renting it was to get the ditch cleaned out and that got done.

The fence on the backside of the creek needs to be moved back away from the water about 10 feet but I need a road put in as I cannot even get the tractor back along the hillside. I am going to ignore it for now and figure it out later.

I did not like running the excavator. I had to pee every hour after a single cup of coffee in the morning! The thing just vibrates and shakes and is constantly pounding your bladder. I shudder to think what it would have been like if I had stayed hydrated throughout the day.

The two upper fields that have been planted look great! They are greening up and growing. I like that, maybe I did something right this time. Once we got back to the house we had to figure out how to change the hitch on the pickup as we had parked the excavator a little too far forward on the trailer. It took about 30 minutes of messing with it to get it changed out. Tex had said he would come out the next day so I spent the evening creating a list of items for him to do on Sunday and I was going to go up and work on the ditch some more with my tractor.

He was a no show! So I spent 1.5 hours cleaning the mini excavator and doing odds and ends. I did manage to get about 4 hours in on the ditch, but had to stop after overheating the tractor. It does not like being ran hard for hours on end on a comfortable day. It gets hot!

I decided that after cleaning the excavator I should clean my own tractor. It took me almost an hour to get all the weeds blown out from every nook and cranny on the tractor. That is the first time this year the mistress has been clean. I even beat on the hood a little bit with a hammer in an attempt to remove the dent. I am going to have to pop the hood off and put it on the anvil and pound out the dent. It is not going to come out easily. Tex had managed to break one of bar lights on the tractor by letting it down and raising the box blade. I am going to have to rearrange the lights on the bar so I don’t repeat this maneuver. I am going back on vacation in a week so I can hopefully get more winterization completed.

14 acres so far planted for hay

One cannot just go to and work on the tractor in silence, you must have noise. Due to my hearing aides, I know have built in Bluetooth speakers in my ears at all times. The trouble with this is my cell phone really needs to be above my waist to make them work perfectly. My shirt yesterday did not have a zip up chest pocket so I started looking for my Tune Belt, 100% neoprene patented belt that will hold your Walkman but also fits my phone. This gem was recently discovered in a box I unpacked from the old house and I have now started to use it. I hunted high and low and could not find it. So I changed my long sleeve shirt to one with a zipper pocket and then found the Tune Belt in the closet by the front door. This is not it’s home so I moved it to the laundry room shelf so I could find it when it was needed.

I went out and disced the upper field with the rental tractor. The trouble was I thought I had two Clevis so I could hook the disc to the draw bar. I did not so I fashioned this concoction from available parts and used it for 5 hours. My pin is more C shaped now but it held for the entire time with no difficulties. I then went down with the mistress, my tractor, and used the power harrow/seeder to plant triticale. I had a hard time getting good penetration so I am unsure of how well it will do.

Today I finished planting the field that was prepped in the upper 7 acre field. I went over it with the power harrow first then went back over it again this time dropping seed as I went. I think this section, 3 acres, will take better. If not, it looks better and I hope all of it takes no matter how poorly it was planted.

After I finished with the upper prepped field I came back to the house. I have 2 acres still to mow, disc and plant in the upper 7 acre field.

I wanted to plant some more grass out in front of the house. I want to be able to test the new hay equipment somewhere I know there are no hidden obstructions. I had disced the area behind the machine shed yesterday so today I went over it 3 times with the power harrow. I filled the entire bucket with junk, mostly scrap metal. I finally had to go empty the bucket as the load was getting too heavy for the tractor.

Once I emptied the bucket I went over the field one more time while planting grass seed and got about a 1/4 of a bucket full of more metal! That was only one pass. It looks great and there are no obvious obstructions. Metal will continue to sprout out of the ground for the next 50 years I am sure. I even found two new 10′ chains, they each need a chain hook for one end but I am always needing more chain.

I am super happy with the power harrow. It has not broken any teeth and it has been getting beat up by the rocks and metal in the fields. So far its my favorite piece of new equipment. Honestly, since I have not used the baler or new mower it probably doesn’t count for much yet.

The field behind the grain bins had hardly any hidden objects. One 5 foot section of 2″ pipe and 4 very large rocks were the only major obstacles. I got it seeded also. I have planted 14 acres so far for hay, 9 acres of grass and 5 acres of triticale. I have 8-9 acres left to plant but it only 2 acres has been burned, the rest needs burned, mowed, disced, harrowed then planted. My vacation ends on Tuesday and we have a wedding on Sunday. Monday Tex and I are going to tag and band cows and sort off the calves that need weaned. I would also like to trim up our bush in the yard and possibly rip out the evergreen bushes in the front yard.

Planting continues

Saturday morning I had just started to tear up the front hillside so I could plant clover when the tractor started to smoke and lose power. It would not go, so I had to call the dealer and arranged for a pickup on Monday. They do not lease small tractors so I had to call the rental place. Its $625/week or 40 hours whatever comes first.

So now we have a 31 HP John Deere tractor for one week so that I can hopefully get the planting completed. I spent all day Sunday planting. I love the new power harrow/seeder! It took some adjusting to get the seed rate set. I now have 9 acres planted in grass seed!

It rained again on Sunday but I just kept planting. I need to get that seed into the ground so that the seed can utilize the moisture available. We need the grass to grow and make tall green grass so we can make it into hay. I did somehow managed to bend the seed arm support bar. I am going to end up having to weld something that is a lot sturdier than those two small bolts that currently hold it in place. It functions even better than I expected, the only real problems is you have to crawl under it occasionally and pull out or cut out all the bailing twine or wire that has wrapped around the tines. The back roller can get filled with mud due to all the rain. The mud has to be dug out by hand. I use my pocket knife. I now carry two, one to dig with and one to cut twine.

The two completed fields look great and are very smooth and 99% rock free. I have had to pick rocks as I am planting.

I finished planting the test field out in front of the grain bins. I had some “cheap” grass seed that was a combination of seeds. It had Sainfoin in it but the problem with that is int only had 5% Sainfoin but those seeds are 5 times as big as grass seed. I had to open up the planter aperture about 5 times bigger than normal. I used up the whole 25 lbs of seed but I am not sure it made it through the whole field. I know for certain that at least 2/3 of the field has seed. We will know in the spring.

I also arranged to pickup 25 tons of large bale hay for the cows on Wednesday. Our 25 baby chickens come on Wednesday also! Plus, Tex is coming so we can tag and band sheep and cows! Its going to be a busy day.

Today I went up into the 7 acre pasture at the far end of the pasture. I tried to mow it with the rental tractor. I overheated it twice. In frustration I called the burn line and gave my permit number and lit the field up! Within 30 minutes, someone had called 911 to report a fire. I got the page and reminded everyone that I was fine and the fire was under control. Once the fire slowed down I got back on the tractor and mowed some more. I did clean off the radiator multiple times. My plan is to get up at O’dark 30 and mow while it is cool tomorrow. I hope it works. If I can get it all mowed I can start planting it also. We are still discussing what I am going to plant but this field still needs to have the Sumac cleaned up and the ditch repaired and a fence installed so I am going to have to be able to tear up the field.

Vacation day 4

Big surprise it was raining again this morning! I am never going to get the upper field burnt. So instead I went over the machine shop and started working on installing my flood lights on the tractor. It seemed like a straightforward kind of thing. There are even power takeoffs under the seat that run through the light switch so I can hook up power there. It took me a while to gets the lights assembled and mounted to the roll bar using hose clamps. Getting the clamps adjusted so that I can retighten all four at any moment took a few tries when I added the second light. I plugged one light in and got it to work. I did not have the right connectors and was able to find them in Pilot Rock amazingly. I broke two of them and never could get the light to work again. I made a second trip to Pendleton for another cable harness and could still not get it to work. They are Blazer brand lights and I do not know why they won’t work. I even checked all the fuses on the tractor and they were all intact. I swapped parts from both wire harnesses and still no joy. I finally gave up and taped off the light plugs to keep out the dirt and I am going to have to do some research. I don’t understand why they don’t work. I spent another 45 minutes trying to get the power harrow/seeder hooked up to the tractor then I spent another hour practicing in the practice field. I killed the tractor once by hitting a buried old spring tooth that got wrapped up in the power harrow. When I crawled under the harrow to get it out I ended up cutting off about 6 hay bale strings from the tines of the harrow. I had to stop several times and make adjustments to the harrow and I had to pick up all the rocks and twine I found. I filled up about half the tractor bucket with detritus. I did not try and plant any seeds. I am saving that for tomorrow. I still think I need to adjust the seed wheel to touch the ground 100% of the time. It looks so much better. If it takes off in the spring I may do the lower portion of this same field next year.

I managed to finagle the tractor into the front yard upper hillside and I will use the harrow to tear up the hillside so I can plant clover. We want to see if the clover can choke out the cheatgrass. Hopefully, this plan works.

So if you know anyone that can fix my tractor lights, please send them my way. Hopefully, Google knows something…