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…

Vacation day 3

My staycation is not exactly going as planned. I had Tex on the agenda for three days in a row. He stood me up. His solution to not coming is to just ignore my text message. The nice part is he is self limiting on our checkbook and he works hard when he comes and we like having him, no one is perfect. There was so much rain that we were not going to get anything done outside. I hooked the tractor mower up and attempted to mow the next field (4 acres) then the upper prime pasture (7 acres) so I can use the power harrow/seeder on them. I had my rubber boots on, a pair of rubber bib overalls, a wool vest, and an old “waterproof” biking jacket and an oilskin cap. The biking jacket is NOT waterproof and the oilskin cap needs more oil. The rest of me stayed dry. So I will be looking online for a cheap waterproof jacket. I have been buying seconds and clearance from Sierra, I don’t get a color selection and my choices are limited but for 50-75% off of normal prices I can live with the inconvenience. I am only going to tear it up on the farm eventually. It may last 2-3 years if I am lucky.

I have decided that I need a speed knob for the steering wheel on the tractor. Going around in circles for hours on end it is a must accessory. I will try and pick one up in the next few days. My hands also got cold in the rain so I may try for some waterproof gloves also. There were a couple of acres of grass that look great! My hope is that by next year it all looks like this. We have had enough rain that the front upper spring is running almost the full length again. The upper prime pasture was starting to get some soft patches again. So I took the time to dig out one of the ditches where the surrounding ground was getting soft. I want the water to flow down into the middle channel and away from the field. When it dries out a little more I will spread out the dirt here and keep working on building this ground level up another 8 inches. If I got it elevated that much I don’t think this would be near the problem. It was so. Wet I could not dig the ditch any deeper, as there was no traction to push down into the dirt.

I have about 10 acres ready to be planted. I have another 15 acres that needs burned but it is just too wet to do any burning. Just tooling along I was not sinking into the ground but the minute you start to churn it up it is very muddy. There are approximately 80 sheep in this picture. I am always amazed at how empty the picture looks when we take the whole herd. “Oh yeah how are your 25 sheep?” “Well it’s really 80” and they are doing just fine.

I got so cold that I had to go inside and get in the shower to warm up in the early afternoon. I drove over to Hermiston to pickup our pig. We traded two sheep for a pig We pay for kill, cure, cut and wrap. Its a good deal for both parties. I also went to Home Depot to get some caps for the new fence but they did not have the kind I wanted to I ended up with a different kind. I will be installing them temporarily so we can see what they look like.

Odds and ends

It has been one of those catch up weekends. They must come around as the honey do list can keep growing. I spent a few hours on Friday working on painting the front fence. Did the same thing on Saturday and one half is now almost done. I have two small sections to paint but the weather got wet and I could not finish.

We have had some summer rain and lightning storms this week and the sheep don’t really feel the need to rush out into the upper pasture and expose themselves to the elements. We had not seen the three, soon to be eaten cows, in over a week. They have been staying at the far end of the pasture and we don’t bring them in at night. Just the horses and sheep have to come in every night. Annmarie and I had just had the discussion that neither of us had seen the feeder cows and I was going to have to go hunt them down. They were kind enough to be standing by the gate when I let the sheep out in the morning.

Now that the alpaca are confirmed killers we are constantly having to check on them to make sure they are all still alive. When you drive up the driveway and see this, you do a double take and then look for signs of breathing. The chest movement is visible as they breathe!

We had 13/100 of rain last night and this morning, when I was out doing stuff today I kicked over some dirt to see if that was going to make a difference, not really, it was only about 1/4″ below the surface then it was dry again. We are going to need a lot more rain starting in late October, not before. I went in and paid for an agricultural burn permit, which is needed if you are going to burn more than 2 acres. There are not very many issued for the county, less than 120. It’s Round-Up week so all agricultural burning is banned Saturday to Saturday so nothing can get away and pull services away. My plan is to burn right after Round-Up and then start planting grass seed. I want to get 20 acres of grass planted.

Today I needed to check the oil in the UTV, it was the last thing I needed to do before we put it into service. This entails pulling both seats out and the center console. The oil level was good but I could not get the center console back in. It took me 20 minutes and three You Tube videos to realize that the cutout will never hold the seat belt cable. You have to move the seat belt out of the way then it just pops right into place, its ready now.

I know that deer season is coming up soon and we are going to be killing lambs in the next two months so I needed to get the gravel moved into the hole I dug around the skinning posts. I spent three hours today moving 12 yards of gravel from the front pile to the skinning pole. It looks good and now I won’t have to wear my mud boots when I am cleaning animals! The water should just go down into the ground and stay away. This improvement has been a long time coming. I just need to get the flood light installed on the outside of the chicken coop now.

I am getting ready for the big grass seed push coming next week. I am taking vacation from work so I can hit it hard.

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.