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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.