New Years accomplishments

Annmarie and I have moved several of the old ewes into the momma area so we can feed them a supplement.  One of those ewes, old brown Lead ewe, had a single girl lamb whose is super mellow.  We will be flagging that lamb to keep as a replacement ewe.  We are looking at flagging and keeping another 8 ewes to replace all our old ones.  We will let the old gals hang out till they drop or get super sick.  We like them and they have been with us since the beginning.

We also have one old ewe who lost a bunch of hair.  She also has a lamb.  It’s weird and we have her in her own confined area and are feeding her a protein supplement.  We have been using some fungal spray on her but it is not changing anything and no one else has it so we think its nutritional as she is one of the old Baker girls.  Her lamb looks great and is doing well so we will keep her isolated for a while and see if we can change her condition.  We are surprised by how late the babies are, the ram must have taken a couple of months to figure out what he was supposed to do once we put him back in with the herd last time.  I suspect he needed to run around and lose some weight so he could do his job!  He was very fat last time.  He is almost as wide as he is long now!  Super fat!

We knew we were going to work cows on Saturday so Friday I went up and worked on one of the short sections of fence I am allowed to complete this year.  I managed to get the two railroad ties set in gravel, the H braces installed and strung up the woven wire.  It’s enough to be able to let the cows into the orchard and not worry about them getting down into the ditch.  I will need to hang a gate on the end and I am going to have to drive T posts horizontally into the bank for 4’ so I can run a cable across the bottom of the ditch and attach the panels with clips.  This stops the cows from just lifting the panels with their horns.  This needs to be done soon as the cows are working the panels already.

I also managed to spend some quality time with the mistress dragging the driveway.  She had it all smoothed out in under two hours.  It is a lot better.  In the next year or so we are going to have to have some gravel brought in on a belly dump and let out over the entire length of the driveway.  It’s about $225 a load now and it takes three loads to do the entire driveway.  I even managed to find time to wire in more light panels in the machine shed.  I have an outlet for the “Buggy” in place and two light switches and boxes wired.  I ran out of boxes and need to get more so I can finish wiring the shop.  I have two more outlets and two more light boxes to install.  I am looking at high output LED lights that I have wired to be on one at a time.  This will cut down my power usage and demand as I only have 20 amps available.  I just need lights and a enough power to run one plugged in item.

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Saturday we worked the cows, the Child came out to help and a work friend the Gimp came out.  The Gimp is on light duty so their vote was for us to use the calf table instead of wrestling each calf down to the ground wrestling style.  We thought we had three calves to tag and band.  Once we had them all into the corral we discovered that one of the three had already been tagged but the tag was buried in her ear.  I had to buy new tags and I got large tags that cannot hide in the ear.  This has been an ongoing problem for us.  It took me about 25 minutes of messing with the calf table to get it to work.  Lifting it with the tractor does not help it and I had to use wire brush and lots of WD40 to get the neck piece to move up and down.  I really need to think about putting it on wheels and pouring two concrete channels for the table to move 10 feet to either side of the corral chute.  Then you could just push it to the side when it is not needed.

The first calf went well but the second one was another one nutter.  I could not find the second testicle.  I was digging around for 5 minutes with no luck.  We tried moving his leg and still no luck.  So we will try him again in another month.  This time he will need to be caught old school so we can roll him around on the ground as I look for that second testicle.  We sorted off the Bull and put him in Alcatraz with the other five steer.  He hollered and screamed for only a few hours and has been very quite and content today.  It’s kind of weird.

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I drove up to the other side of the old chicken coop to look at the spring head, front spring runoff and our fall planted grass field.  They all looked great!  I am hoping to get 2.5 tons/acre of hay in the spring time off of our newly planted fields.  I just need to get the Buggy battery adaptor and trickle charger installed and then install the upgraded spray pump.  The Buggy needs to be ready to spray this spring.

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.

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.