Haying again sort of

Well we have had a heat wave with the temperatures running 102-111 F this two weeks ago so I have not been doing much work outside. This last weekend I decided to get up early and go rake hay up into long rows. We are not going to bale the hay as it is too dry. We just had too much to put up, so I am just making bigger rows so the animals can dig into it later when the weather is not as good and eat all they want. Raking it also lets the green grass under it grow so the animals can eat that also. I went out Friday morning by 0630 but two hours later I had to stop as the tractor had overheated already. The next day I was outside by 0430 and raking hay. I got all of the hay I needed raked up. I have two areas where I need to dig out the dirt so the water can stay in a low spot. The ground is so soft that I stuck the tractor twice in the mud. Pretty impressive after that heat wave. I should start my second hay cuttings this weekend. It is ready and I might as well get it done. I am afraid there is at least another 12 ton out in the field ready to cut.

We have let the sheep out of the barn lot and out into the upper field #4, they can also use the walkway we created alongside the wheat to get 1/2 mile away from the house. Due to the nature of all of the coyotes around here we are now forced to bring the sheep in every night. The first few nights are always the worst as you are teaching the sheep to come in at night. After that they will start to put themselves in every night. Tonight it was merely a matter of walking out and shutting the gate.

No rest for the wicked (or farmers)

After work on Thursday I needed to finish haying, the real problem is I have been awake since 0400 and am not highly motivated at this point. The trouble is I know if I don’t go out and do it then it may not get done. So after dinner and after dishes I went outside to go bale more hay in field #2. We need to get the dried grass off of the field so that we can do a second cutting. Both field #1 & #2 will be ready to cut again in two weeks. There has been so much hay and it has been such a hassle to put it all up with this microhay equipment. I finally just gave up on getting field #3 finished.

I will go down and push all of the rows together to form 3-4 large rows down the middle of the field and we are just going to leave them. When we let the animals up later in the summer they can dig through the piles and eat whatever they want. We did the same thing after the flood two years ago and the animals will tear it up and eat whatever they want. There is just not time to do it all. We have talked about bigger hay equipment but currently we don’t want to spend a bunch of money. So we are going to fix the old John Deere baler we got last year this fall and see if we can get it repaired and ready for next year.

I got on the John Deere little tractor and went out with my Italian M50 baler and baled in the dark. I managed to bale four tons in about 4.5 hours. This is dang good speed and not normal. I did not break a single shear bolt and everything went incredibly smoothly. The grass was very thick so the bales formed quickly. Mr Professional had to pull another two links out of main baler chain and we have worn down some of the gear teeth. I tried to order new sprockets and Ohio based company did not have them, they were literally on a slow boat from Italy in a shipping container headed their way. I kept looking on the internet in the hopes I would find somebody in this country who would have parts for an Abbriata M50 minibaler. I found a new baler for sale in Oregon! So I called up the dealer, then the parts dept, got a hold of a very helpful parts person who had no idea they were selling a Sitrex baler. In the pictures it looked like my Abbriatta with a different name. I gave him my Abbriatta parts numbers and he sent that to his parts supplier who sent it to Italy and the next day Italy has the parts! Mind you the Sitrex parts catalog was identical to the Abbriatta! So the slow boat plan is still in progress. I will keep looking and hoping that the internet will find me someone in the United States.

I stayed out until 0200 baling, came in and cleaned up, went to bed and was up by 0830 to get out and mow some more hay at the neighbors. He had volunteered to allow us to cut a couple of his small fields. But before I could go out and cut hay I had to fill up tractor with hydraulic fluid, grease entire tractor and sickle bar mower. But to grease sickle bar I had to install a new grease zirk and then change out the grease gun head to be able to add a ninety degree head. I had to tighten the bolts on the mower and ended up installing the hydraulic lines backwards so the control for up/down was reversed. I did not bother to change the hoses so I spent the next three hours cussing it the entire time. While mowing the neighbor’s field I ended up having to pick a few tractor bucket fulls of rocks due to all of the rocks in the field. I had to to go around in patches to cut the good stuff and left the bad weedy areas. I will come back after I am all done and just run the flail mower over the entire field.

I came home and wife talked me into going to town for the farmers market. When we came back I took a 30 minute nap on the front porch and then spent another 30 minutes convincing myself that I really did need to go outside and do more work. I did get up and go turn hay in field #3 in the dark for three more hours.

Hay torture

It’s that time of year again where I wish I had a clone. This clone could then work for me doing all of the things I don’t want to do, chief among them is bring in the hay. Last week on Sunday, Mr Tex came out to pickup hay bales, he had informed me he had a friend that would work just as hard as him, so I said yes bring him. His friend has the same stature, lean and tall. Yes, his friend did know the meaning of hard work and did work very hard. We will henceforth call said friend ”Mr Clone 1”. I appreciate it when all I have to do is drive around the fields and someone else loads the trailer. I did help unload the trailer every time and we did get another 10 ton of hay unloaded into the barn! It was hot and they were both worn out by the time we got done, it took about 6 hours. I treated them to lunch at the minimart as we needed truck fuel. We had only driven 57 miles and burned up 20 gallons of gasoline! All of those miles were in the field getting hay. So the barn is basically full, I think I can fit another 3-4 ton only between the two rooms. I currently have 27 ton stacked in the main barn. I am saving the space for our second cutting we are going to get off of field #1&2. This will be the first year ever to get a second cutting on our grass hay that is non irrigated.

Since we had just gotten back from vacation and the rain had finally quit and everything had dried out it was time to get back to haying. I went out and turned hay in field #3, we had 1/2 the field cut and it needed to be turned. The Girls (Daughter #1 and Daughter #2) did chores while we were away and the sheep continued to lamb. We had one set of triplets that the mother could not feed the third baby and by day 4 the Girls had to bottle feed it and give it to our regular bummer caretaker. She gets all the bummer lambs for the price of coming whenever we call. Annmarie saw a family of raccoons running up the creek. We think they are living inside the barn so we set out a live trap in the barn with cat food. Raccoons love cat food! My chicken egg production is down and I am not sure if its due to fright from raccoons or just the heat but the chickens need to lay more! I managed to only spend 13.5 hours outside on my first day back from vacation doing farmwork.

Annmarie found a 18’ grain bin that is disassembled and 8’ high with all of the roof pieces for sale. It was delivered and we were able to unload it in four loads with the Kubota tractor and a set of loader forks. It is so much nicer to use the pallet forks instead of your back. We just stashed it all in a pile out of the way. That is totally next years project and when they delivered it was when I realized there was no top cap for the roof. I am going to have to try and hunt one down or else make one. The real question is how fancy do we get? I know I will be running some conduit to it so I can put in some outdoor outlets. I am even thinking about tapping into the water line but I am not sure how to do this as I only need 1/2’ line and want to use pex tubing and an antifreeze fixture. I may even go so far as to put an underground shutoff valve that will drain the above ground line so I can just shut it off in the winter. But I have to keep reminding myself that this is next years project and I need to just let it go.

Daughter #2 has managed to get the tractor stuck out in the field twice already. Once she hit a bad culvert with some undercutting from the flooding and the other time she hit a spring and got stuck in the mud. The springs and mud are really bad this year. I am going to have to move some more dirt around to mark the edges of the muddy spots so we don’t get stuck in the mud as often.

The puppy, ”Chance” missed us while we were away but the Girls managed to get her to not holler every night when she is kenneled so that was very pleasant surprise when we went to bed. You still have to get up and potty her at 0400 but that is a small price to pay for the whining and yipping to be gone.

Lambing is now officially commencing

Again, the haying continues. We are still using the Micro hay equipment from Italy. Everything has done alright but the rake. The back wheels fell off last year and we attempted to weld them back on twice but the metal is not very good and it it keeps weakening and breaking so we now just use the front half and sooner or later we will have to repair the back half. It works for now and that is really the fact that continues to be pertinent.

I spent all day today on the tractor turning and rowing field two and then going back over it and cutting under the rows with the sickle bar. I was doing this after the rowing when I heard a change in the way the sickle bar was mowing and yes, I broke a bolt and the mower was not functioning correctly. I went back to the house and called it good.

I needed to be cleaned up early as our summer guest is arriving today, Monica! Monica was our foreign exchange student 8 years ago. She is going to vet school in the UK and came to spend summer with us instead of flying back to Taiwan, yeah for us! We are excited to have her and to teach her about the animals. She came at a perfect time as we just started to lamb today. Our first ewe had triplets this morning and was watching and feeding them all. This round of lambs is the first from our new ram we purchased last year. By this evening we had another set of twins and a single.

I let the sheep in the front yard to mow. Eventually, I am going to have to mow the lawn but that means I need to not be on the tractor all day and so far that is not happening. But, the lawn continues to grow so I have to do something. The sheep mowing will need to happen for another few days to really put the lawn in its place.

We have been talking about putting in a grain bin silo gazebo for outside cooking and entertaining. I realize we are not exactly social mavens but having a spot out of the weather where we could gather would be very nice. We could even put a little power to it so we could have lights and a plug in. So we have been asking around to see if someone knew of someone getting rid of a bin and have not had any luck yet. Annmarie was perusing Craigslist yesterday and spotted someone selling 18’ bins with 8’ walls and the entire roof. We reached out today and the pieces and parts should be delivered in a couple of weeks! So now we need to mock up some plans to take into account how we want to setup our outdoor area and where. We have the spot picked but it means we will need to move the yard fence out to accommodate the new location.

I am fairly certain with the amount of hay we still have to process, the new office needing to be completed and the bridge to be built we will not be getting to the Gazebo this year, but who knows if winter fails to come until December we may have time. But at least now we will have the parts necessary to do this project.

Left out in the heat

I spent Thursday on the tractor going in circles making little bales of hay for eight hours in field number one. That seven acres seems to take days to bale due to the shear volume of grass that was produced this year. At only 40# a round bale it takes 50 bales to make a ton and there is around 20 ton out in this field alone. We are counting bales as they come out of the field so we will know when the field is empty how many ton of hay were produced. The bale counter has a lot of false positives as it counts every time the dump opens up even if a bale is not discharged. I do wear hearing protection but both of us had been wearing some type of ear bud/in ear speakers to listen to music while baling. This is problematic as the baler has a siren to tell you when it is full and we cannot hear it. You also cannot hear when something changes with the equipment. You can hear most breaks or soon to be broken issues but not while wearing headphones. So instead we now have a Dewalt radio bungee corded between the roll bars on the tractor, blasting music and we wear ear muff sound protectors. This makes it much easier to hear any changes with the equipment. I know this sounds counterintuitive but it really does work!

Mr Professional came out and did an oil and filter change on the John Deere tractor. I need a strap wrench for the fuel filter before it can be changed. I have ordered this already and it should be here by next week. I had to stop several times while bailing and make adjustments to the baler. It keeps needing adjustments as the temperature outside continues to rise. Once I got the chain adjusted I had to adjust the rear hatch catching mechanism. Also the discharge spring stop weld broke so I had to beat down the metal tab three times. This has been welded with some extra angle iron added to take the continuous pounding every time a bale is discharged. We need more tools in our tool bag. We need a full set of metric wrenches, not just the 15 mm and 10 mm wrenches. Plus, I noticed a couple of holes in our tool bag, so a new tool bag is probably also in the works. The wheat field is starting to turn. They won’t be able to harvest till the end of July this year. Harvest will probably be 3-5 weeks later than normal for us.

I was going to call it a day when Mr Professional said he got someone to come out and buck hay bales with me. This sounded like a great idea so I came in and fired up the pickup and we went out to pick up bales. We picked up 100 bales (2 ton) out of field two and came into the barn lot. Unfortunately, we filled the easy spots last time and that meant all of these bales needed to go to the top of the pile. We had 10 of the 100 bales into the barn when he gets a phone call and has to leave. I ended up moving about three ton of hay farther up into the barn and then unloaded the two ton from the trailer into the barn. I was very tired by the time I was done. Since I missed dinner and Annmarie had gone into town to do some work, they had left me dinner on the stove, Mashed potatoes and meatloaf! Annmarie always adds lots of stuff to the meatloaf so the vegetables are hidden inside of it, mostly carrots and onions. I zapped the potatoes in the microwave and then doused the meatloaf in a thick layer of real ketchup. Mind you I had stripped down in the laundry room to my tighty whiteys and needed the shower but it was nine pm and my last meal was at 7 am. I was hungry. So I ate dinner on the front porch of the house in my underwear while I watched the sun go down. It was a very spectacular dinner.

I had to order more diesel. This time instead of ordering 100 gallons I just told them to fill both sides of the tank to the top and we would go from there. I think its a 150 gallon tank. The propane company sent us our annual contract, we used 346 gallons of propane last year. Interesting enough, they set our usage at 800 gallons next year therefore making our monthly contribution double what it would have been. I sure hope the price doesn’t double or our consumption double. Every since we had the coolant leak repaired our propane usage is about half of what it used to be, which is why I think they are budgeting for 800, as I suspect our usage was that high before the repair.

I was in bed trying to go to sleep over the crying puppy (we are crate training her) and the noisy frogs when Mr Professional called to say someone just pulled up to the field with a pickup, a trailer and a loader and two people were out in the hay field with headlamps on. I ended up getting out of bed, putting on my wild west attire and headed out to the field. Before I could get out there he calls back to say its the bee people. They were adding hives to the ones they already have in the neighbor’s fields. They had forgotten exactly which field but had the right location. It was directly across the road from where they were looking. I was back in bed and asleep by midnight.