Nothing got broken

The kids killed it on their hay pickup day and managed to fill the first hay bin room. They moved a bunch but did not finish. Tex underestimated how much was left on the ground. There are 1050 bales to move into the barn. So Hoss came out the next day to finish picking up hay. I had gone to work for a couple of hours to finish stuff and to try not to give everyone the plague. The first load took him 1.5 hours to load and he commented on how long it took to do alone. I kinda chuckled as most of this stuff I have to do alone and it takes 2-3 times as long to do it that way. I told him how to stack it on my way to work. While at work I start getting these frantic texts from Annmarie saying there is an issue at the farm. Hoss sends me a text about an “issue”. I ask for a picture, because really a picture is worth a thousand words.

Annmarie sends me this picture. It could have been so much worse! The trailer is still on the road. It’s sitting on rocks in the front and back so it’s stable. The axle is not bent or pinned on any rocks. The bank just gave away. Now I failed to mention to Hoss to not use this crossing. I knew the rocks were giving way. After the flooding we had this spring they washed out the gravel and created a soft spot. I had filled the gravel twice but realized that the cure is going to be me pouring concrete walls about two feet to either side of the culvert all the way down to the water line. There is no other good fix. I failed to pass on this nugget of information to Hoss or Annmarie. So Hoss started to unload the hay and when I came home we looked at it.

He wanted to get some handyman jacks and lift it up and push it over. I finally looked at it and said we could just use the tractor. I would drive it down to the spring and get the bucket under the tires and push it over onto the road then drive around and pull it out. It only took five minutes once we had it unloaded. Now Hoss will use the other crossing only until we fix this one, which will take a while because cleaning out the barn then building fence are our priorities.

Simple communication could have averted this, one more lesson for me on why I should talk more.

Three musketeers

I have the plague and this is hindering the hay pickup issue. I got Slim and Tex lined up to come out Tuesday morning at 0600 and start picking up hay. I was approached by a friend to see if I needed more help out on the farm on Monday and I decided Monday evening to call them and have them come out Tuesday also. This way I could have Slim drive the tractor and Tex and Hoss could load from each side. While they unloaded hay into the first bay I would have Slim clean out the milking area of the barn and the second hay room as I was sure they would fill the first hay room. I had a plan.

Everyone arrived at 0600 and we spent the first 20 minutes cleaning out the pickup! It was not horrible but it did require some effort and I found a coat and hat I had misplaced in the process. I also think I found a handful of tools that I had misplaced. We tossed out all the trash and even emptied out the bed of the pickup.

I then spent 7 minutes teaching Slim how to drive the tractor, the most important part being always wear your seat belt. I figured she had never pulled a trailer before but going slow and her brother, Tex could give her pointers. Tex and Hoss jumped on the trailer, I went to work and hopefully the hay gets put into the barn magically.

I had to come home early due to the plague, it had gotten hot so they had quit. The first hay room was full and Tex wanted to know how to stack it in the second one. I told him and he said he would come out and finish in the late evening as he was leaving for California tomorrow! I told Tex I would pay him when he finished. He was confident there was only a little over one load left.

Hoss was still here and I walked him around the farm and we discussed him digging out the barn and helping me with some fence for the next couple of months. He was agreeable to this. This was very fortuitous for us.

Tex came out that evening and unloaded two more loads into the barn and said there were at least another 2 loads in the field. He was a tad optimistic.

Hay needs to come in, really it does

Since Tex did not answer my text he is not coming out. This does not change the fact that we need to get the hay inside the barn. So Annmarie and I headed out first thing Saturday morning to get it done! She was going to drive the pickup pulling our trailer and I would load and unload hay into the barn. The culverts are only 10 feet wide and the trailer is 8 feet wide. This meant that Annmarie made me drive it across the culvert. I chose to cross over the new culvert as the old one is elevated and starting to crumble, the rocks are falling off. I really need to fix it but its a low priority. Hay and fencing are number one and two right now. The bales are kind of randomly spaced and close together so Annmarie had to weave in and out of the bales so I could pick them up. Using hay hooks they are not hard to pickup and the trailer and pickup had no trouble hauling them.

I did the first two loads without a hitch. I had Annmarie trained to start and stop by merely hollering “K”. It was taking about 1.25 hours per load.

So it’s load three time and I almost have the trailer full when Annmarie tells me the pickup engine is smoking. Smoking is not a good sign for an engine. I popped the hood and there is a radiator leak in the top right corner of the radiator. Now, I had been having some issues with the pickup heating up over the last month but I thought it was a thermostat issue, I was wrong. I had her park it and we went inside. Once the engine cools off I will fill it with water and drive it back to the house. We can then fill it up to the brim and drive it to the shop for repair. Now this is not totally unexpected but I still need to get hay picked up!

Tex had asked me if we could pull the trailer with the tractor but I told him I was unsure if the tractor could haul that much weight. I do have a draw bar on the back of the tractor. Now that I have no choice I decided to try the tractor. The holes in the draw bar are too small to insert a 2 5/8″ ball. I ended up going to D and B farm supply store and buying a bar for the three point hitch and a stinger with three sizes of balls with a pin that allows me to turn the stinger and change my ball size. This allows me to use the three point and it pinches it in place which allows me to lift the trailer with the three point. I would need to figure out an upper attachment to allow me to use it without getting off of the tractor. This was going to require more thought and time and my current method worked! I did one more load but as I was getting sick thanks to Tex or Annmarie I went inside cleaned up and went to bed.

The hay still needs to get into the barn. Tex messaged me, he is not coming on Sunday as its Father’s Day. I foresee a day spent on the couch being miserable.

It must be even

It had rained the days before so we did not want to cut any new hay. Instead we planned on turning hay. I had a funeral to go to so we got Tex all set up with our new 5 foot power rake. He will turn all the hay this Saturday. This rake will let you pile it all up into a row. I had visions of Tex just following the rows that the mower created. he did one better! He went down one side of the row then at the end of the row he turned around 180 degrees and went the opposite direction allowing the row to double in size and cut the number of rows in half. This was very clever and not something I would have thought of had I done the turning.

Before I left in the morning Tex and I planned out our needed improvements to the machine shop. One of the rafters is broken, we need a bunch of plywood to line the hay room to keep the round bales in and the loose hay out of the new gravel area. We also need to install the bolt and screw organizers that were laying on the floor of the machine shed. I need to get all the bolts and screws organized and out of the multitude of drawers I currently have them in. I am also going to hang some bin organizers on one wall. I need to mount these to a sheet of plywood, so we will be hanging a few sheets up on the walls for future use. We also need to make legs for the new free countertops I managed to snag on the way home this week. Every once in a while those “Free” signs are a big win.

I went to my least favorite big box store and picked up plywood and lumber with a few Knick nacks. I had to wait 30 minutes for help loading plywood as there was only one guy who could do it. There are reasons I dread Home Depot, but I spend so much money there I get the zero interest for 6 months on my charge card and always pay it off in time. I love that deal!! Plus on Saturday at 1600 there is no other place in the area open to buy lumber.

I knew I needed some more baling twine, but with micro equipment I was unsure where I was going to get it. The salesman on the phone seemed to think I could get it anywhere. So I found it at a local store and bought two small, 5000 feet rounds. They did not have Jute cord like the free roll I got with the baler but they had lots of types of plastic cord to pick from. I was not sure if they would fit but its all they had and something is better than nothing.

When I got home and published the blog last night Annmarie spotted the uneven gates on the new stretch of fence. She mentioned that would need to be corrected tomorrow. I told her hay came first but I would think about how to fix it without spending 10 hours reworking two rock cribs.

Weather not cooperating

Star, our very distinct Dexter cow (she has a white tail), had her first baby and it’s still alive. I drove up the paved road by the schoolhouse and saw her with her baby. We had not seen the baby for a few days and were wondering if it had made it. It is the first brown spot standing to the left of her in the picture. Honestly, its there. It rained on Wednesday so no haying for me. This was good as I had other things to catch up on. Our front yard is getting hip high. Its the best looking grass field on the place.

Tex came out today, he is officially done with school for the summer so I will be loading him up. I had a hankering for Pasta Carbonara for breakfast today. One of my favorite Medics use to make it when he would float up to our Lifeflight base. He used to say it had all the breakfast food you needed, a meat, eggs, cheese, and a carbohydrate, the perfect one dish meal. So I had it ready to go at 0700 sharp. Tex ate about half and I told him that was great as we would be eating the same thing for lunch! He was not opposed to this concept. At lunch when Annmarie was critiquing my breakfast options I chimed in and said Tex would love it if I served pizza for breakfast. He emphatically cheered that idea as good enough to do one morning.

He worked on getting the slash pile next to the house built up and the pine trees I cut down two years ago cut up. I worked on trying to get a weed eater to work so that our daughter could start in on our jungle of a yard. I finally managed to get one started after 30 minutes and another YouTube video. I then had to swap out the head for one my progeny could use without instructions. She ended up weed eating for 5 hours and only has about 10 left, it builds character. After we got the first slash pile created we went out into the orchard and patched a wash out near the fence that the flooding created. One of the sheep had slipped out and spent five days hollering for its mom. It was old enough to wean so I ignored it. Today while we were working in the orchard the sheep ran out onto the back hillside. They were tired of the confined orchard. We cleaned up and readied a second slash pile in the orchard. We would have torched them today but the wind was blowing pretty hard and I did not want the flames and heat going near the live trees.

Near lunch time I was giving direction to the child when she reached over and started trying to pet my beard on the right side. She muttered something about my beard being messy but I ignored it. After lunch we went out and started back in on that section of fence we have been at for a month. We had to hand dig three holes and then set three wooden posts. This doesn’t sound horrible except we use a metal breaker bar as a gravel tamper so it gets mighty heavy before the post gets set. Once done that post is solid and not moving. I picked up some near brand new 4′ woven Red Brand wire from the scrap yard. It was perfect and allowed us to use it only and no smooth wire installation was required.

I thought I had the gate opening distance correct but Tex had to keep redoing it. We finally had to start over and add two wooden posts to the outside of the rock crib. It doesn’t make for a very aesthetically pleasing look but its very functional and the gate will now open far enough for me to pull a trailer through. The creek crossing has been removed. It was the hardest to take down in a runoff situation and will make it much safer for me.

We ran the fence over a rock bluff so I ended up having to build an old fashioned rock crib. I have just a few old wooden posts hangin around. They are all cedar and I trimmed or split them to get them to fit the new rock crib. I also pushed a couple of very large rocks over so that the animals cannot push on the bottom of the fence forcing the fence up and sideways.

The lovely hay grass field you see in the foreground of the below picture is really our front lawn. It seriously needs to be mowed. The weather looks not very good so here’s to hoping it does not rain tonight.

When I came in for the night Annmarie started chiding me about taking a shower immediately. Not because I was dirty but because I had a rooster tail in my beard. I held out for another 15 minutes before heading to the bathroom. This was my first visit of the day, as the entire great outdoors was my urinal all day long. Holy smokes! I had this huge sticky out rooster tail on one side only of my beard. I had it all day long. Guess how many times TEX commented on my lack of grooming skills? None, Nada, Nothing all day long!!!

Haying virgin

The farm parts place came through in spades! My new driveshaft came in on Monday and I was able to pick it up that evening. Now it was 28″ and would need to be cut down but I had purchased a grinder that went with the new 60V DeWalt battery. It is amazing! There is no noticeable difference between the battery grinder and a plug in one other than pure convenience. Electric tools had to be able to get there eventually.

On Tuesday afternoon I cut the driveshaft, attempted to install it and had to cut another 2″ off to make it fit properly, this took a while. I was now ready to cut some hay!

This is me ready to cut some hay. I spent another 30 minutes on the internet and watching YouTube videos trying to figure out how to rotate the drum to behind the tractor for transport. I never did figure it out. Yes I read the instruction manual, but it was originally written in Italian and then translated into English. There were about 20 pages of how not to cut your hands or feet off because the mower blades are rotating. So this means I cannot go through narrow gates, it is possible but it does limit the gates that I can use.

I fired up the drum mower and started to mow in the cow pasture. I figured it was a great place to start and work out the kinks. Yes, there is a learning curve on where you can drive and how fast you can drive. After about an hour I started to hear this thunking noise. I finally stopped the mower, lifted it and waited for the blades to stop. The blades actually take about a minute to stop rotating and after hitting a rock and slicing it in two I figured out why the manufacturer had 20 pages of instructions on how not to slice off a body part.

There was a skid plate off of the bottom of one of the two drums that had come loose and was held on by a single bolt. Three bolts had already fallen out. I attempted to take a bolt out of the intact side but was unable to get one loose. So I had to take the loose one out, it came out with my fingers and then I went to Pendleton. Everything is from Italy, so it’s all going to be Metric. I had my fingers crossed and hoped I could find replacement bolts. I found 6, I needed 3 but they only had them in alloy not stainless steel like the ones that fell out. So I grabbed all the alloy they had and went home. I was putting the third one in when I realized something was different about the drum plate I was installing and the intact one. There were 14mm spaces between the bottom of the drum mower and the skid plate. There were no spacers when I found it. So, I had to go back to town and find something that could act like a spacer. I did and managed to get them installed. This is the loaner mower!

I started mowing again and just kept going until 2230 at night. I am definitely going to have to invest in some kind of aftermarket lights for the roll bar. There is 300# of antique tractor weight discs in the tractor bucket to offset the mower weight. So when I get the bucket high enough into the air to see with the headlights the tractor becomes very top heavy. I almost tipped it over twice. If I had roll bar lights I could keep the bucket closer to the ground and it would be much safer.

I came back on Wednesday and was able to finish both fields by 2100. So about 11 acres cut in 11 hours. Now I think in all reality that number could be 11 acres in 6 hours without the breakdowns and learning curve. Its supposed to rain.

Water in the raw

Well the weather finally let me get into the upper fields. I drove the mistress up the road, stopped and talked to one of our neighbors on the way then made my way up to the far end of the property. I was able to get into the upper wheat field and drive along the bottom pasture. We do own a four wheel drive pickup but the problem with it is its heavy and it sinks down into the mud. The mistress has four wheel drive and is very light, she also has a bucket that can be used to drag or push you out of any place you get stuck. I have learned how to use the bucket to rescue myself. This does not work if you actually get stuck in a deep hole. You need a second vehicle at that point. I have only needed a second vehicle four times to extricate the mistress out of tight jams. The ground is truly soaked at this point. It is starting to give up water and is now running down the center of the field. I was hoping to get a single large pond that held the water but it does not look like that is going to happen. I also did not dig a channel down the middle of the field like I did in the lower field. It looks like the water is working on creating its own channel. When it dries out this summer I am going to have to deepen the channel that is made by the runoff. This will allow me to install a culvert so I can cross the ditch with the tractor and implements. I don’t want to bother with installing any buried tile network to drain off the moisture. My goal is to get the grass established and get a nice double cutting from the subterranean water soaked ground. If I have to give up some land due to too much moisture then so be it. Unfortunately, the ground is so sloped that there is no pond or reservoir like effect occurring. I am not so sure the ducks will like a mud pit. This is the bottom half of the upper pasture. I still need names for the two fields in the middle. Currently I have the Upper Prime Pasture which is the 4 acres just past the barn lot, two unnamed grass hay fields and the upper field which will forever be called the “7 acres”. I will have to consult the wife as to what the names should be. You can see that the lower channel has a tendency to widen and splits near the fence. The best part of this is that the elk have not gotten into the field and rooted up the grass seedlings!

Here is the lower of the two fields. This field has a channel dug into the center of it from five years ago. The water seems to be going directly to that channel. I would really like it to go to the already dug old original channel at the middle left of the screen. That is the original ditch from the 30s. I think I could easily direct it that way as you can see a low spot is already there. I would just need to encourage that water to make the jump to the front ditch instead of creating its own. This is the lower pasture. Last year I created a series of small connecting channels and they are working. This entire area in the picture used to be a mud fest area. I don’t dare go out in either field for at least two more months. The deer are living in the bottoms with the elk living on the hillside and up on top in the CRP. This is a good thing and I have high hopes for our grass hay crop this year.

We are going to work on our taxes this weekend. I need to do the farm categories and the chicken spreadsheets. Once that is done we are going to work on our loan application for the hay equipment.