Haying done!

It has been a long summer and it is just getting started! The heat has been incredible. We had a new record high, 116 degrees F. This is an amazing amount of heat and one which normally would have had us hunkered down inside our house enjoying our central heat/ac via heat pump. Yeah, Lady Luck struck again and we had air conditioner issues. The worst kind of issue, the gradual change. As the heat kept increasing every day our heat pump kept losing temperature differential and the house just kept getting hotter. Our house got over 90 degrees and three days after we called a repairman out he came! I consider this a success, but we found out our system has a coolant leak and some valve that needs to be replaced and it turned out to be a factory order so we may get it fixed 8 days after discovering it. If its only 8 days I am going to take it as a win. The heat is now under 100 F and at night it is actually cooling off so we have a huge fan that goes in the breeze porch and sucks in all of the cold air and blows it everywhere via the upstairs hallway. We had to have some relief as Annmarie was sleeping at her moms and I was staying up late or getting up early trying to open the house to get it cooled off.

It turns out my mother had an air conditioner for the shop that she was not using. We thought abut putting it up in our bedroom but it really needs some external support. We ended up putting it down in our craft room with the Murphy bed! That bed is turning out to be on of our great purchases of the year. It is getting a lot of use. I had the saw set up and an old table I had not yet discarded and in an hour we had the stand built and the air conditioner installed and blowing cold air! It was the best nights sleep I had had in one week. The house only got to 79 degrees with the new setup. This is much better than 90, sweat does not run down my back just sitting in the living room now.

Friday was a lazy day for me. I don’t have them very often but it has been a long stretch at work and all of my helpers were busy having lives. So I started the day off by making waffles. I got 2 and the chickens got 4. They fought over theirs more than I did. I binge watched Netflix, I still didn’t manage to finish my TV series, it even has a second season so its going to take some more time. I did spend an hour trying to get our yard sprinkler up and going. I had it apart three times and managed to blow rust, and water all over my face and shirt one time. I did get it up and working eventually, that was my big feat for the day. Annmarie and I even went into town and had a sit down dinner, which hasn’t been happening much with Covid. Our local bunny rabbit makes a showing almost every day now. I see it hopping around and we even saw a covey of Hungarian Partridges (Huns) with babies in our driveway. All of the animals seem to have done well this spring.

Mr Rainman came out today with his wife, Gimpy today to help me pull in the last of the hay off of field #1. There was quite a discussion had, some whining, about my choice of names for helpers. A final ruling was made that a name is given on the very first day you come out to the farm to help and it is never altered. Yes, it may not be as pertinent but unlike your birth name there are no do overs or changes allowed. So Gimpy, without the injured leg, helped load hay today. We pulled another 174 bales off of the field. The best part of this was that our main barn was full so we had to use the lamb shed. What a sweet deal!! Mr Rainman said if I just tossed a round bale on the edge of another by the trailer it would spin and then roll all the way across the ground to the hay stack. This worked fairly well but during the second load he suggested we use the trailer tail gate as a ramp, pure genius and worked perfect! This made unloading super easy. Gimpy decided that the owning a farm was not in her future.

We had a Rock chuck lay out on the wood pile for the first three trips, I finally went into the house and grabbed the 17 HMR and of course we never saw the little varmit again. It was fairly obvious that we had issues with baling hay in field #1. There were just under 100 failed bales that had been jettisoned out of the baler, almost 2 ton. We went around and picked up all of the rolls and fed them to the cows/sheep in the upper pasture. It will take them a couple of weeks to go through 2 ton of feed. This puts off my building fence for a short while. We ended up getting just over 800 bales off of field #1. I think if the weather had not gotten so hot we could have gotten 1000. I am going to spray it with 2-4-D soon after we run the mower over it.

Mr Rainman is going to come out early this week after the holidays and mow down a bunch of cheatgrass. I am hoping to put the hurt on it on Monday. I will stick to the fields around our houses. The front porch has gone no where. So we laid down the same OSB sheets we used to have on it so we could use the front door again. After we get back from our week long respite I am driving to central Oregon to pickup our new ram. He will have a buddy as we are also picking up a ram for the farmer buying 28 of our lambs and starting up his own herd.

Haying forever

It has been an incredibly long week. I am supposed to make several posts and spread out all this information but honestly, I just don’t have time. The weather is against us, we are under a “heat dome” now and it is currently 108F. It is supposed to get to 115 and may last for at least ten days. It is absurd, our heat pump is not keeping up so we are at 75 degrees inside the house it may get to 80 by the end of the week. It is definitely not the pleasant 72 degrees we usually keep the house at during the summer.

I did have a lot of help off and on throughout the week. Mr Rain Man came out at 0530 on Tuesday to help me with baling of the hay in field #1. I had no idea how much hay was in that field. I think we are going to get about 3.25 ton/acre. It is our best performing field for sure. The problem is we keep hitting moisture issues and its making it hard to bale. Mr Rain Man had never ran any equipment this small but due to the heat he could only work until around 1100 in the morning. He did this for two mornings until he got a piece of something in his eye and had to spend a couple of days irrigating it. I blame the contact lenses. He came out on Saturday to help move a little hay.

I managed to bale hay for a few hours one evening. We have over 800 bales on the ground and have still not managed to get all of the loose hay baled yet. The front porch is a dream, I have been focusing on trying to get the hay bales off of the field and into the barn. But its taking so long due to the heat that the porch is on hold for at least two more weeks. Annmarie and I are actually going to leave town for a week. I ended up working all day at my paying job on Friday so was unable to do any farm work.

Mr Professional came out and got the hay rake repaired and welded together one late night after it cooled off. No one wants to work in the heat, its miserable.

Mr Rain Man, Mr CrossFit and Mr I Need a Belt Bad all came out on Saturday. Mr Rain Man came out at 0530 and started baling hay. Mr I Need a Belt Bad came out at 0730 and spent about 45 minutes weeding the back garden. He forgot to bring a long sleeve shirt and he knew we were going to pickup some hay. It’s going to be a miserable day. We grabbed the pickup and went out and started to fill it up with bales. Mr Rain Man went back to the house with us as he was just not getting the hay to feed right. All of us unloaded hay, I did more supervising than working. I did provide some verbal instructions for Mr I Need a Belt Bad related to inertia and lifting with shoulders and using a knee to keep the bale moving. This “feedback” was continued for two days to give him an edge. It’s hard to keep up without using all the available muscles to the best of your advantage. He is starting to catch on. He should have it down by the time we get all the hay done!

Mr CrossFit and I worked on getting three 3’ wide barrier cloths installed between the raspberries and blackberries. We did this after moving hay on Saturday. We had plans to set the lower railing posts in concrete also but after doing the barrier cloth it was too hot to do any more work. Annmarie wanted to cut down on the weeds and it just so happened that one of my coworkers was getting rid of some rubber bark! There was enough donated rubber to do about 2.5 barriers and we used a few bags of leftover from the lavender patch. We only have about 7 bags unopened now and I will need to put them out on the lavender patch so the sun doesn’t eat the bags.

Sunday, Mr CrossFit and Mr I need a Belt Bad unloaded a pickup load into the barn and then we got two more loads. Mr Professional and a helper came out Saturday night and loaded in 110 bales into the barn. We got another 3 + ton into the second barn bay today, so 5+ ton into the barn in the last 24 hours. There was so much hay that the last load we closed the lower doors on the barn and opened up the upper doors. The hay had to be tossed up to the overhead opening. That electric 16’ hay elevator really needs to get repaired! Tossing them by hand is not easy and Mr CrossFit was moving as fast as he could to get the bales loaded as high as possible. Mr I Need a Belt Bad took more instruction. He is hanging in there. Honestly, hard work and perseverance are the key to success and should be fostered. As long as he keeps working and trying he is welcome to come out. After we get the hay in we will need to start digging out the barn, which is a miserable and smelly endeavor. I would not say that I am the easiest boss to work for, I do provide instruction and set expectations and provide feedback. The feedback can be colorful but it does get the point across.

Back to haying with some interruptions

Well as always things progress on Mother Nature’s schedule. I keep thinking she will cut me some slack, and honestly she did, I was able to work on the front porch for three days straight a week ago! Now it is back to haying. I have one field left, #1, 7 acres of grass, triticale, oat and something else. It’s a pretty big mashup from all the different attempts to plant and the flooding. The field looks great but seven acres is going to take at least 7 hours to cut and as thick as it is it will most likely take even longer. So I went out on Thursday after work to do some cutting, Mr Professional was already out cutting so I swapped him out so he could go home. I only managed a to do about two hours before I broke the sickle bar mower. I thought it was making more noise than normal and I was right, except being right meant the mower was broken again.

We have a bunny living on the place, it keeps running around the corral, barn and car area. We spot it almost every day. When we were working cows it just kept hanging around us, never really ran off. I think it is one of the Pygmy rabbits native to Oregon. We get them occasionally but usually they succumb to the predator birds. Who doesn’t like rabbit in their diets? We would not mind having a few on the farm but they can never seem to get established.

Friday was maintenance day, my least favorite day of the year. I can mechanic, I just really don’t like to do it. We ended up breaking the sickle bar bolt that joins the bar to the rocker arm. The real problem with this is it is a double threaded bolt, it is threaded through the arm and then a nut to lock it in place. The real problem is there is not very much room on the backside of the arm and you have to use two fingers to get the nut on as soon as the bolt comes out of the arm. When the bolt brakes this causes a problem as there is very little room to work and you have to break out a drill and easy out. We were able to have enough of a lip to cut a groove in the end with a sawzall and then use a flat head screwdriver and some WD40. It worked and we were able to get the old one out, since we were working on the mower we swapped out the cutting bar blades also. This would have been easier if we had pressure washed the blades first. It took a ratchet strap and an anchor point to pull the blade out after I had it unbolted.

After a few hours we had it all back together and working. Mr Professional was turning hay while I baled it. I was having trouble with the baler as it kept jamming. Mr Professional thought I was going to fast so we switched jobs, I accidentally ran over a completed bale and caused the rake to slam into the ground breaking the wheels again. I thought we were done, nope he just tore off the wheels and kept going. This does need to be corrected eventually but for now this will work. It looks pretty weird. We finally just gave up on baling. It was too wet so we went back and swapped out the baler for the mower and I went out and finished cutting the last two acres. I can drive around in circles no problem. I brought a couple of bales back to the machine shed and tested them for moisture content 24-30%, too high.

Saturday was scheduled to be our big day, we were going to do cows. Honestly, I think that all couple therapy should have a live animal sorting component. It’s brutal and yes, I am learning but I still keep screwing up. So after the first thirty minutes we had a routine. I had gone in to pick up Mr I Need a Belt Bad, and Annmarie called me to say we needed tick medicine. So we waited for the ranch store to open and picked up some pour over medicine and some fly bags. Annmarie had already moved the mommas and babies into the barn lot and everyone was ready to be sorted. We moved the calf table onto the end of the corral chute. The plan was to crowd the chute, dose the mommas and then sort them off and then deal with the calves. The chute is spreading and has been for several years. I had always intended to put chains up high to prevent that from happening but have never done it. It’s going to have to happen. There are two gates that won’t latch, one is just spread apart and the other is on the down hill side and the gate keeps tipping up away from the predrilled holes. I need to stop the downhill slide. So I added the corral to the to do list for this year.

We got medicine on the mommas, and managed to get all of the calves tagged but one. It was a squirter, it got past the neck lock and then Annmarie and Meathead tried to catch it, they were hollering for me, but I was in the chute and by the time I got out and touched the calf it got away. Luckily, its a little girl. We found another boy with undescended testicles. It’s scrotal sack was empty and shrunken so there was no way for me to use the bander. I may have to learn how to cut instead of using a bander, maybe just cut if there is no other option for me. It’s a stupid problem but one we keep having. So now we have a bull from last year (one nutter) and now we have a fully intact calf. They have to stay off by themselves after they are weaned. Meathead ended up getting bitten by one of the calves when she was holding their head. I did not think they would do that but the obvious bite mark on her palm contradicts my belief!

Mr Professional came out about the time the last calf got away so we opted to push them back to the barn but they had ran down to their old stomping grounds. They were wild, crazy, panting and drooling and would not go where they needed so Annmarie just called it off, we will do it later, they were too stressed. Unfortunately, our plan to just let the calves go did not work, we were missing one. So the five of us searched the area, I used the tractor, and Mr Professional found the calf at the far end of the driveway down by the cattle guard. This is looking more and more like I need to put in the double gates down by the in-laws house so when we work animals we can close the gates and keep them from running and hiding from us. This didn’t make the to do list but it keeps coming up as an option. It took six hours to do all of that, sort the eaters and sort off the bull and put him in with the females. We also pulled off three breeders from the feeders who were hanging out in field#4 and tossed them in with the bull. He should be happy now! He has been locked away for over six months. The one nutter and a steer are now in Alcatraz as there are a couple of young heifers in the feeder herd. We have seven cows for sale this year, a one nutter and a ground beef only 15 year old cow are in that total. We really have handling the sheep down to an art, and working the cows is an act of frustration. I have added a corral remodel to the list. We need to create another pen, a calf chute and a place for the calf table to reside so we can work easily and keep all of the calves contained. This means actually drawing up some plans, taking some actual measurements and then gathering all of the materials. I already know we will need to custom create at least three gates but most likely five to fit the new configuration. I want the chute to be smaller, our current one is 24” wide, so I am thinking 16”-18”. I want it too small for the adult cows to enter, so it should probably only be 16”. I will need to chain the entrance to keep it from spreading and maybe even put a chain lower down so the adults would have to bend down to get lined up on the narrow opening. This can only happen in the spring when the ground is soft enough to really make drilling holes with the auger easy.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I ate lunch then we talked about him weeding the garden and porch area. We still need to work on our communication. Annmarie tells me I did not let him give me a stop time, I asked for a job time estimate and he said an hour, I figured two for the job. I paid him for the day and then went out to turn hay, while I was hooking up the rake he left, after an hour. I suspect he had already given a stop time to his ride but that was not communicated to me. So I have a new plan, quitting time is 1630, every day he comes out. This just makes it easier on all parties and we all know the stop time. Sometimes I forget what it is like to be around teenagers, then they remind me. One would think after all these years and countless teenagers I would have this down to a science but they are all different and it takes a while to get things figured out.

I went out and finished turning the hay, I love the smell. Plus, we have a set of baby deer twins that are cat sized! They are very tiny and very cute. The birds love all of the grain and the hawks love the voles that get disturbed. It is very peaceful to just go around in circles, listen to a book on tape (nothing educational, pure pleasure) and drink water/gatorade. In the morning I will start baling and get it all ready for someone else to pickup and put in the barn.

It’s not done till it’s done

It’s not done till it’s done

Saturday the plan was to start earlier in the day. Mr Hustle and Flow did not like busting bales during the heat of the day in triple digit weather and wanted to do it when it was cooler. This is a reasonable request and was accommodated. They showed up early and we went out to the pickup by 0600. All good ideas must be punished or tarnished in some way, the capricious Lady Luck had some say in their choice. It appears that the last one to move the pickup yesterday was Mr Flow, he left the ignition key turned to the on position. The battery was DEAD! No problem, I will just go get the portable battery vehicle jumper I just replaced this year, yeah, it was dead as I have not needed it since I initially charged it up. You do have to plug it in occasionally to keep it charged. Okay, there is a work around for this, I grabbed the jumper cables and had Mr Hustle go get the tractor/baler combo out of the orchard. I needed it soon anyways so this will just ease my access. Mr Flow tells me that the tools in the pickup glove box will not remove the battery terminal as it is severely corroded again. Magically, my battery terminal cleaner, that was stored in the glove box was missing. I hunted in several places but could not find it, I did however find a small wire brush. Finally, the terminals were clean, the tractor was here and the pickup started on the first try. We just left the pickup running for the next two hours to make sure that the battery had a chance to get recharged. My brilliant idea did work, the sheep cleaned out the entire baler and I did not have to dig out any blockage!

At 0800 my next helper came out, Mr CrossFit. He is going to be in the area for the next three months and had never been on a farm to help, his wife said he may be up for some farm work and he decided to come out. He showed up just in time as we had just pulled into the barn lot with a full trailer and pickup bed full of bales to unload. No rest for the wicked, so he went right to work. I did have to give a little instruction as to the benefits of using your legs to lift and throw a bale. When you have to do this all day the leg trick makes all the difference in the world. I went out with the three of them and we picked up the cheat grass bales. The overhead walkway was ready for these and we will use them as bedding instead of buying straw. The helpers groaned internally when I showed them that they had to go up stairs and stack them all in the walkway. We have about 80 bales up there now ready to just be tossed off for bedding! I realize that there is a lot of extra labor going in on some of these projects but it is all designed to make our labor much easier this winter. I left the three of them alone to finish picking up bales while I went out and baled some more.

I managed to get another 100 bales completed and now field #2&3 are all done. #2 still has some unbaled hay along the creek side but again, after jamming the baler another six times I was done! Turning it did help but some is just still in the tall grass and I cannot get it baled without jamming. I did the sheep trick again and drove it down to the orchard for a sheep clean out. I was going to help with the hay removal process so the sheep can do their part. I also sheared a shear bolt for the second time and just did not want to mess with it any more for the day. I went and got more diesel for the tractor and filled up the pickup, I managed to get 25 gallons into the pickup, it was getting close to fumes and the gas gauge is not very accurate on the low side. Older vehicles and equipment need a user manual, for sure, just to understand all the quirks. We hit it hard and managed to fill up the entire first hay room. It is stacked all the way to the door, and the second room has started getting round bales. We have managed to put away 17 ton of hay in the last two days. I am keeping track of which fields and how much is coming out of each field so we can start to do some projections for how much hay we will be getting next year.

Haying until it is done

Haying until it is done

Friday was the day to dig back into the hay. I even managed to get out and get to bailing by 0730. This seems late but I had to to fill the tractor with diesel, blow off the entire tractor with air, paying special attention to the radiator to get all of the dirt out of it. I have a screen filter in front of the radiator that catches all of the weed particles but the dust will clog up the radiator if you do not blow it out every day during the summer. I focused on field #2 and noticed that the rows near the creek side kept jamming the baler and then I had to stop and dig it out by hand. Yes, I do turn off the pto, turn off the tractor after I lift the rear of the baler, and I even turn the hydraulic valve closed to keep the baler open. The baler lid weighs far more than I want squishing my while my head and body are inside the baler trying to clean it out. I finally got tired of digging out jams after five times and just quit rowing on that side of the field. It has to do with my mowing job. The grass was super tall and I ended up only cutting about 70% of it so the still live grass is jamming up the baler. I need to change the blade on the sickle bar obviously. Mr Professional came out in the afternoon and turned all of the loose hay that I had not yet managed to bale. I managed to bale over 500 round bales with the Minibaler and finished the neighbors field A.

Mr Professional got a couple of young men from up the road to help us start moving the hay into the barn. The unfortunate part of this is that the hay has to go to the ceiling, which is 16 feet high! I have not welded the old hay ladder find I picked up three years ago yet so it is all done by hand. I am thinking that the ladder is going to have to become a winter project this year. I have dubbed the new helpers Mr Hustle and Mr Flow. I did the baling while they did all the heavy lifting, the people in my life who think I should still be taking it easy will be happy. I am not very good at being inactive. I have lost my popeye arms and upper back muscles. Any activity causes a lot more muscle weariness than I am used to tolerating prior to Covid. I am feeling much better, just saw the cardiologist this week and will continue meds for another three months. It is improving and for that I am grateful even if I am a lot frustrated.

Mr Hustle told me that he saw a cougar last week on our place. It was up on the rocky hillside by field #2. He watched it come off the hillside and go into the tall grass then a few minutes later all of the deer ran out of the field. They come up to the corner of the field to get a cell phone signal so tend to hang out in their cars for a while whenever they feel the need for electronic device time. There is no cell phone signal up the canyon from us, not really any even at the end of our place in spots. The only really decent cell service in the area is Verizon if you are looking for all around access any where in the state. It’s different when you are in a city but once you get into the rural areas the access can change dramatically.

I ended up jamming the baler one last time and just called it quits, I was tired of digging it out. I had an epiphany and decided to not clean it out, I just drove back to the house with it all jammed up and drove right into the orchard. I lifted the back end of the baler and locked it open. My hope is the lambs in that field will just reach in and clean it all out before I get to it the next morning.