I need to be planting fields

I am getting stuff done on my staycation. Yesterday, I got all of the big bales stacked up against the fence. I backed them up so that the cows could not reach through and eat the backside. We had scavenged enough free pallets this summer to go around two sides of the entire pile. Pile is an odd word since I was unable to lift any bales to stack one on top of another. My row is three bales wide and 13 bales deep. While I was moving hay bales, Mr Professional came out and started mowing field #5 so we can get it ready to plant triticale. The problem was the little John Deere tractor kept overheating. There was too much dust and chaff in the air and it kept clogging up the radiator intake. We finally went to town to get a tarp and discovered that the store was having a huge DeWalt tool sale the next day. This of course meant I had to return the next day. The tarp fit perfectly and we tied down every single grommet to one of the strings on the bales, leaned the pallets against the sides and then distributed pallets all across the top of the tarp to keep it from blowing off or ripping in the wind. The plan is for this to be two years worth of hay for the cows. I plan on keeping the animals out of this field, the pallets along the side are for the deer and elk.

I did go to town first thing in the morning, I made it into the store twenty minutes after it opened. I was able to get the small 4” clamps DeWalt makes for Annmarie. They are the best when clamping together laser projects, they don’t give or slide. I got a hedge trimmer for the lavender and an electric chain saw. These days I really like looking at products that are quieter. As I keep losing my hearing avoiding loud noises without hearing protection is something I try and avoid. When I got home I started mowing the fields with the Kubota. It still tried to overheat three times. I had to blow out the dust and chaff twice and clean out the air intake two more times. I have the triangle still to mow but I am going to get the field ready for seed tomorrow and hopefully plant on Saturday. I will need to pick up seed on Friday. I will be overspreading grass on a couple of fields and tossing out some crumble fertilizer. My hope is that we can get a great crop in the spring. I will be taking the old John Deere baler in next month to get the bearing replaced and the tie fingers adjusted. I forgot to take the raccoon carcass up to the boneyard. That really needs to happen tomorrow before it gets so bad I don’t want to touch it. The chickens are now laying four eggs a day, double what they were before I killed the raccoon.

The field across the creek needs to be disced and leveled. It had some flooding and water gouging from many years ago and it needs some serious work to create a surface that will be safe to make and cut hay on. I just need to remember where I stashed the disc set?

Predators 15 / Farm 4

Well my staycation continues, Monday was the big day I needed to go pickup hay for the cows. We buy big bales for the winter. I am hopeful that we can get enough triticale planted this fall to put up enough of our own hay to not have to buy anymore. We are getting close. My hope is we have enough for two years this purchase. Then when I hay next year we are set. That is the plan, we are closing in on self sufficiency, it has not been easy to figure out what we need or how to get there.

I started the morning out with a good breakfast! This is the key to farm work. I almost always work through lunch and just eat breakfast and dinner so cooking something hearty first thing is essential. I did do the dishes afterwards. I then hoofed it up the back hillside to make sure the gates were closed after we moved the cows this weekend. I took both border collies and the puppy was in seventh heaven. She doesn’t get out of the yard much as she has a distinct lack of control. Of course I was able to call them back and got the gate opened, Mouse ran in and the puppy, Chance, ran up to the gate then saw a chicken, the chase was on. She terrorized several chickens, me hollering to no avail when she spotted the sheep! So she ran up the creek line alongside the fence looking at sheep, when she turned around and barreled towards me I was ready. I just snatched her off the ground and carried her back to the yard. She was distinctly unrepentant in her demeanor, wagging her tail and licking me the entire time. I then went out and pushed the three bulls across the barn lot, through the front yard and down into the below fields. We have three fences between the cows and the bulls now, our old bull should be contained. He is the Houdini of fence crossers and we don’t want him impregnating anyone. He will be hamburger in the spring. I then had to run to town and drop off stuff for wife, came back just in time to hook up flat bed trailer, pump up back trailer tire that is always chronically low and fuel up the tractor so I can move the bales off of the trailer. I also called for farm diesel to be delivered. Luckily for me, they were loading the truck with diesel for a Pilot Rock run that day and I was able to get squeezed onto the delivery route! This was much appreciated as I was going to run out in the next couple of days as many hours as I am putting on the tractor every day. The best part about this is the hand pump only needs to be moved every other delivery so two times a year. This is very reasonable and the pump works great, I am happy I did not get a second pump for another $350 installed with all the accoutrements.

I then went to get hay, its only about five miles away but we determined that I can only haul four bales at a time. The seller reminded me, four bales, I had him put a fifth on anyway that first load as there were 40 bales to move. It was not happening, four it was. The plan was to just pull the trailer into field four, shove them all off randomly and tomorrow I would place them in an organized fashion. I cannot stack them as the new Kubota will lift them 2-3” only. Which is not bad considering the lifting capacity is only 1100# and the bales weigh 1400#. I will stack them in a neat square.

I pushed three bales off and figured out I could just park the tractor and set the bucket to the right height to hold the bales in place while I drive the trailer out from underneath the bale. This worked super slick and I was off for the second load. I congratulated myself on my efficiency and kept going. The second load I tried to move two bales off at the same time using this technique and almost ripped the plastic bin off the front of the trailer, the bucket height was too low. I fixed that then was pulling the tractor sideways, there was too much weight to hold in place. I had to unload each bale individually with the tractor. On the third load I tried again but this time I got the front of the tractor in front of the spare trailer tire attached to the trailer and pulled the tractor sideways again. I had to unload individually again. Now I was not to be deterred by these obstacles and was determined to recreate the perfect bale dismount again. On the fourth trip I got the bottom part of the tractor forks too low and crushed the tire well! I tried to bend it back and beat on it with a hammer but I had a couple of creases in the metal and it was not happening. I managed to get it off the tire enough to drive it to the shop and cut off the tire well with a grinder. I am going to have to fix that, but I did learn my lesson and discontinued my duplication of perfection. It was getting late and each round trip was taking around 45 minutes. I needed to pick up the pace.
I was not even getting out of the pickup at the loading site and moving as fast as possible to get done before we lost daylight. This meant missing dinner but we were having leftovers so I could eat when I was done. On the 8th trip the alpacas decided to create chaos. I had to open one gate to get into the shop/grain bin area. The alpaca had been watching me all day and occasionally would start running at me when I opened the gate. I had been jeering at them and making less than respectful gestures as they tried to rush the gate. I had been winning. This trip they were waiting for me at the gate. I have to open the gate, get back in the pickup and pull pickup and trailer through and then jump out and shut the gate. I had 11/12 of them rush through out into the wheat field! I tried hollering, waving my hat, screaming, hitting them with hat and epithets but none of them worked and the sun was low on the horizon. I just left them. I simply did not have time to mess with them and they knew it! On my 9th trip there were several in the dirt road and when I opened the gate I was able to heard them with the horn and pickup out the gate, now there were 6/12 where they were supposed to be. On the last trip, just enough light to load the trailer, I parked in the alpaca area, with the trailer visible through the gate and used the tractor to push the last six out towards the alfalfa hay. They went grudgingly. Now I think they are all there but there may only be 11, it was hard to count in the dark. I will check in the morning. If there is one out it will stay close to its buddies.

At some point during the day our old bull got up onto the hillside behind our house. He is not supposed to be there, that was the point of me checking the gate. So I will need to look at the top gate and most likely secure the creek crossing. He just crawls under the panels at the creek crossings. He is so annoying. Now there are two fences between him and the females.

I used the tractor to herd the sheep into the barn lot. If they would sleep with the cows we would leave them up there but they always go off by themselves. We are having predator problems again. I have something eating my chickens again and we lost another lamb this last week. So here is the count. I have lost 12 chickens to predators and 3 to natural causes. I am sure it is a raccoon but it keeps harassing the chickens and I am only getting two eggs a day, they are stressed. We have lost three lambs to predators and one jumped into the old hand dug well and drowned. I just noticed this catastrophe by the smell and will now have to fish out a horrible mess. We don’t use the well but I need to clean it out and cover it up, sheep are so stupid. It had to jump up into the thing. We lost one calf to the flooding. The dogs have been barking at night and in early am and I have been going out for the last two weeks with a pistol and flashlight and have not found anything. I scan the trees looking for eyes. Last night at bed time the gods started up the barking, I went out and was just about ready to go inside when I decided to go look at the chicken coop, I was shining the light around and spotted eyes high up in the tree. It was a raccoon. It is no more. The predators and nature are definitely ahead this year. I need to get rid of the coyotes in the upper pasture but I have not seen them this week. Hopefully, we will now start getting more eggs. It will take the chickens a few days to relax and calm down.

February catchup

I got behind again on the blog. This is so easy to do if you do not just sit down and write every week. It can get away from you quickly. Kind of like the weather at the end of February. We got snowed on and it persisted. The alpaca were getting used to green grass then there was snow all over the ground and it was cold! It dropped down to -1 F! This of course caused much consternation as I have half a barn full of straw, not really hay. There are not enough nutrients in it to keep the animals going but I have a lot of it! There is so much I am unsure where I am going to store it all to make room for this year’s perfect and awesome hay that is going to be baled and stored in the barn for next winter.

Mr Professional and I went and bought another three ton of alfalfa from the rancher we had just purchased some from 6 weeks earlier. Both times we went over scales and paid per ton. The bales lost 6% of their weight in those six weeks. They went from 100# bales to 94# bales. I have never looked up how much weight is lost over a year when you talk about bales and dry out over a year even if stored inside. We have enough hay now to make it until spring to not have any leftover.

I had two of the new chickens die. One stayed outside and got eaten by something. I am not sure what as it tore its head off, tore both wings off and only ate a little of the body. It was pretty weird. But we did see a bald eagle flying around the property but I doubt it was a large predator bird as I would have expected one of them to just remove the chicken from the premises.

A week after the cold spell the snow just up and vanished. Our back runoff creek did not go up at all. This is very good news as it means that moisture dropped into the ground and soaked in. Now our front ditch which is fed by a spring has gone up quite a bit. The springs on our place are putting out a lot of groundwater. The fields all look really good!

Mr Professional also found a great deal on some cow scratchers and a pto driven seeder/fertilizer. All of it together was very reasonable. We just need to get them mounted, one on the upper property and one down on the lower property so the cows can use them both. We are going to hang fly powder directly above them so when they scratch the fly powder will fall down at the same time.

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.