Closing in on planting

It is getting cold, yesterday I thought it was cutting and was chilly until the sun came out. Today, I had to come back into the house after feeding the cows and get a neck warmer. It was the only way to keep the wind from blowing down my neck and shirt. I was still very cold and spent 30 minutes in the shower after I got done warming myself up. I need to break out the Overalls if I am going to sit on the tractor for hours at a time in this weather. I still have about 1/2 acre in field four to plant and to put away all the yard tools and roll up all the water hoses. All the garden and drip lines have been disconnected and blown out so they are ready for winter.

I have been trying to get the last of the grass seeding done. Unfortunately, this is a longer process than I had envisioned. I can do about 3 acres a day, that is it. This is not exactly a rapid process. The other part is that I was working on our seven acre plot and it has a lot of rocks. A lot less rocks after Mr Rainman picked them but the cultivator kept bringing rocks up out of the ground. This meant after I make the trip around again I had to disengage the PTO, jump off, pickup rocks and toss them into the bucket and then engage PTO and go again. I ended up picking four buckets worth of rock over the three days. I did not see a single deer in three days. What I saw a lot of were quail! We have an amazing amount of quail on the farm. We are hoping to thin out the pigeons and maybe some doves as we have about 100 of those also. They are competing with the quail for food. We may have to put out some bird feed blocks this winter for the quail.

Spraying

Thursday was a perfect day to catch up on our field spraying. The side by side is all ready and as long as I put a quart of oil in every time I add five gallons of fuel it works great. Yes it is burning a lot of oil. I am hopeful there is a treatment I can add to the oil that will extend its working life. Now that we have the big marine battery installed under the driver’s seat it starts right up! It is pretty amazing to just turn the key and have it start.

We are mixing 10 cups of 24D, 3 cups of sticker and 7 ounces of Milestone to 50 gallons of water. This is killing the broadleaf and the thistles are dying. I noticed after looking at the fields we sprayed a month ago that it was time to spray again. New broadleaf weeds were 3-7 inches tall and ready to be murdered. I was able to spray all of field #1, 2 and 1/3 of #3. This was incredible progress, the wind finally started to pick up so I had to call it quits. During this time I realized that our home weather station is broken again. I kept trying to check the wind speed (no spraying over 15mph, I like to stop at 10mph). The trees were moving the wind was blowing and our weather station little round cups were not moving at all. Turns out they have decided to stop going around and around in the wind. So we researched another brand and purchased a new one, this one using sound to measure wind speed, it has no moving parts! Our hope is this will last and not cause us problems. Luckily, the pole I installed on the last replacement can be used for the new one so this will save a lot of time.

I was able to spray all of the fence lines along the fields also with the hand wand. This has caused me to realize that I need to install a hose on a reel for the spraying that is self retracting. This way when I get off the side by side to spray I can move around more than 12 feet. I am going to have to look at what Harbor Freight. I am sure a frame will have to be welded to our current setup to get it to fit and be stable.

I was able to spray all of #4 and another 1/3 of #3 on Friday before the wind made it impossible to continue. The fields look better and I need to cut at least one field as it is all cheatgrass. The sheep don’t like to eat it but after last year we have learned that if I bale it we can use it as bedding for the entire barn. The sheep will spread it around and then pee all over it. If I have enough of it I don’t have to buy any straw to use for the bedding. The best part is the compost pile gets hot enough the next year to kill all weed seeds. Unfortunately, the tractor is in the shop for repairs. The front wheel bearing seal requires too much work and a hydraulic press which I don’t own. When I took it into the shop I found another leak from it sitting on the flatbed trailer. I had them quote me for fixing the wheel bearing seal, for fixing rear hydraulic takeoff connector, the hydraulic leak and the bucket controls are sticking so they are going to fix that also, for the low low price of $1200. Annmarie heard the quote on the answering machine and wants to talk about a new tractor! I do need a new tractor but we are waiting two more years until Meathead is out of school. So for now we will repair the tractor and continue on.

I net wrap I ordered came and a spare hydraulic hose for the sickle bar mower. I really needed the actuator arm for the baler. It is bent and the constant pulling on it is making it worse. I will need to call them on Monday to see where my last two rolls and the actuator are.

Forever Friday 11/42


Sunday was spent doing a few inside chores then going outside to push the large bales together from Saturday. The bales are too heavy to lift with my little tractor as it only lifts 800#. I left the manure forks on the bucket so that gave me another 20” of pushing ability. I figured out quickly when filling up the machine shed that it was possible to get a second layer of bales lifted onto the first with some appropriate juggling. Push the potential top bale within about three feet of the bottom row, then stand it up on end and then quickly push the top so it is now leaning upright. Then take the tractor bucket and put it under the bottom of the bale, reach back and lower the box blade to prevent you from tipping sideways or backwards. As you lift the bale, back the tractor up this will cause the bale to pivot and allow you to lift it so it is parallel to the top of the bales then quickly push it forward onto the top of the stack! Now you have double stacked the bales! This sounds easy but it took some trial and error and the tractor being on two opposing tires before I managed to perfect the technique. The alpaca are loving the all you can eat buffet. They are so lazy they will lay down and eat. We have all the hay we need for winter on the farm. I would still like to get 2-3 tons of straw for the barn floor and some protein tub licks for the cows.

Annmarie saw a video for onion jam over the weekend so she made some yesterday. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients but it does take about two hours to cook down and caramelize the onions. She made four pints with 8 pounds of onions. We are going to see how it does, its for meats and soups as a spice. If we like it we will be doing it again next year but may have to buy some onions.

Monday I puttered around the house in the morning, made bacon and eggs for breakfast and ended up outside in the afternoon. I had plans for Mr Ears to dig out the holes for the bridge footings but he was unexpectedly detained and unable to come out to the house. So instead I painted a spot out for both footings and dug one out! It was not easy between the tree roots and buried rocks. I had to use the breaker bar most of the time and only had to break two rocks in half that I could not get out. I set the blocks so they are overlapping and then back filled around them. I will pound in rebar next then we will fill them all with concrete. I want to make one sold piece of concrete for the footing so when it floods again the footings just stay in place and the water will tear out the bridge and the fence. I am going to put breakaway panels on the fence so the water can just push it away from the posts. I am going to anchor the upper sections of fence with rock cribs so the breakaway portions of the fence will give away first. This will cut down dramatically on the amount of fence I actually have to repair in the event of a flood. It took me about four and a half hours to dig the footing and set the blocks and backfill it. So I expect it to take me another 7 hours to finish the other side as the rock wall was only two blocks high not four and that will need to be completed first. Once I have both bridge footings completed I will mix and pour the concrete. I purchased 40 bags so 20 bags per side, hopefully that will be enough.

I really need to cut off the lower section of the trailer fenders as I kept bending them back against the trailer tires when I was moving the large bales around and pushing them off the trailer. It involves a lot of tractor brute force and just getting the bale part way off and driving away in the pickup letting the bale fall off the rest of the way. This is rough on fenders.

Forever Friday 9/42

I did it, I have a new cell phone, I went backwards and purchased the cheap Apple SE 2020. I loved the small size and the larger phone do not fit in my pocket well, especially after you put them in a case that is break proof. I drop my phone at least three times a week, not including all the dirt and dust and bouncing around it does on a weekly basis. The screen seems more responsive and I don’t have to juggle it around in my hand to make it work one handed. All of these are necessities for keeping up the blog.

I spent Friday doing a few odds and ends around the house. We have company coming next week so some cleanup and organization is in order. More concrete blocks were needed for the front spring and bridge in the barn lot. I had planned on driving to Hermiston but found them locally for the same price! I ended up picking up 132 blocks, 40 bags of Sakrete and 200’ of rebar, around 7000 pounds of material. This was good as my trailer only holds 7500#. I managed to get the trailer into the ram pasture and took 90 minutes just before dark to unload them all. I did not want to unload them all at once but I needed the trailer on Saturday to pickup the 40 tons of hay necessary to get us through the winter.

I have decided that I need to lay in and pour two footing for the bridge in the barn lot. This way when the bridge gets washed away I can just find it and set it back on top of the concrete footings.

Saturday start time was 1000, this is nice every once in a while. I had 20 ton of triticale and 20 ton of grass/alfalfa combo to pickup a few miles outside of town. I can only carry 5 of the large bales at a time and had 62 to pickup! The round trip times varied from 26-46 minutes depending on what was going on. I did not finish until around 1730. Once I go to the house I just shoved them off with the tractor. They are too heavy to lift with the tractor. I will get them all organized on Sunday. I want to push as many as I can into the hay side of the machine shed so they are out of the weather. Those will be the last ones used for the year as they will be protected. I cannot lift a full bale so the stack can only be one bale high. I am hoping to get 16 bales under cover. The alpaca love the bales just laying around, they have been going from bale to bale sampling to see which one is their favorite. The bales also afford them the luxury of laying down and eating!

I did have to pause and try and pickup the dead kitten at my mother in laws house. It was in the shed in a red bag. She had a blind kitten that had some weird eye infection that would not go away and one of the nephews named it Frankenstein. She ran over Frank backing out of her garage. I could not find Frank in the red bag. So I called the wife and then the mother in law, it turns out frank was in a red bag inside of a cardboard box inside of a blue bag! Frank has been dealt with and is no longer with us.

Annmarie has made contact with a fiber mill in Idaho that we can drive to and drop off our fleece to be converted into yarn! They want a single fleece per bag so on Tuesday we will do that then we will schedule a delivery day and time! Unfortunately, none of the fiber that we stored out in the barn with the mice and rodents survived. So lesson learned, the fleece must be dealt with directly after it is removed from the animal. I will be creating and assembling a cleaning tumbler next year for the fiber.

I also started to apply epoxy to our gnome doors. I have more to do and obviously need some practice on working with epoxy. Our goal is to get these encased in epoxy and spread them everywhere around our yard and barn lot. Meathead is painting more and I will get those sealed up. I would like to have about 20 of these spread over the property.

Forever Friday

I have been fortunate enough to be able to take a few weeks off of work and regain my sanity. I am going to use my new favorite term “Forever Friday” to celebrate my autonomy (while still collecting a paycheck!). I spent Friday starting to clean out the barn. Those clamp on manure forks I got for the tractor to clean up the flood damage are coming in incredibly handy to actually clean up manure! The forks will go into the manure and allow me to pick it up with the bucket. The best part is they clamp on and off so when I start to get a muddy floor that really needs a straight bucket to scoop up, I just dump the forks for a 2-4 bucket loads then put them back on. This keeps me from having to drive around in the mud. I spent five hours cleaning up the barn so far. It usually takes about 40 hours to empty and about 30 more hours to move the manure piles away from the barn. Now I am able to scoop and drive directly out to the manure compost pile. My hope is to let the pile compost for one year then put it in the new manure spreader and get it on the fields. The current problem with that is I have a frozen shaft on the manure spreader. I have tried multiple lubricants on it with no success. I am going to heat it up with a torch next and see if I can get it break loose. I am hoping to only spend 40 hours total on the barn this year and to minimize the amount of hand work that has to be done.

Yesterday, I started getting hay in for the winter. I purchased six ton for the sheep and horses. I pooled my resources with a friend and we made two trips. The first load came to my house and we loaded it into the barn and got it all ready! The seller sent their son with us to help unload and it was glorious. We spent all day getting our four loads. I made sure and put bales in the back of the pickup to add some weight so the pickup would not get jerked around by the trailer. This worked very well and I had no trailer swerving on either load. I just need to get the large bales now. I will do that after I get the barn dug out. After the barn clean out and hay pickup I will be fixing the barn lot fence and bridge. I am keeping my list short and focusing on a couple of things only to ensure I can get them all done on my time off.

Annmarie has been working on getting our alpaca fleece fiber cleaned out. She has discovered two pieces of equipment she would like to make this an easier prospect. The bingo cage like apparatus is my favorite so far. I will be building this in the near future. I am just trying to figure out where to store it when its not in use. We are going to send the fiber out to a mill to be converted into yarn for us.