Barn Blues

I have been having Hoss work on the barn during the week. He usually comes out first thing in the morning and works until it gets hot. He has been digging out the barn with the tractor and by hand. I put in an hour or two after work but I am the one who tore up the barn floor with the tractor. There has been a few boards buckling near the back of the barn. I almost had to rip them out last year and reattach them to the floor braces. After I let the floor dry out they lowered themselves and I opted to leave them alone for another year. Now that I have ripped one out of the floor with the tractor I will have to pull up four rows, clean them all up, clean up the loose poop and then attach three rows Once I am down to one board only I can measure and custom cut it to fit the gap. The floor is tongue and groove and I did not leave any gaps so there is not a lot of movement allowed in the floor. On Wednesday when I went out to the barn for an impact driver I spotted a large pile of poop up against the wall below. I was just starting on Annmarie’s list of to do and thought that a few minutes with the mistress would do me good. So I climbed up onto the tractor and started to scoop up some poop.

Holy smokes! The pile was hot! It was steaming and the temperature was over 80 degrees. I ended up having to scoop up the entire pile at the end of the barn. The 8 inches of rain in one month we had caused us to have more moisture in the barn than is normal. When you dig up the floor with the tractor and leave it in a loose pile you aerate it. Once it gets oxygen with that much heat and moisture the composting process went into overdrive. So now the race is on to empty the barn. The only nice thing is the undisturbed floor/straw manure layer is so dense it doesn’t get a lot of oxygen so its not heating up. It just smells horrible when you disturb it. Hoss has marching orders to finish the barn up this week. It only needs about 6 more hours to be complete. Once it is empty we will let it sit for a couple of weeks then put all of the sorting chutes back inside. We will need to count sheep this month so our buyer will know how many we are selling. We are not even sure how many we are selling until we count them and get a feel for how big they are. He wants them on the bigger size so it limits the number we have available.

It rained 1/10″ on Wednesday. I had the lawn almost mowed but the rain put a temporary halt to my efforts. Running the mower for 3 minutes then taking 3 more minutes to empty the bag and restart the mower makes it very tedious. I would like it to rain one to two more days that much so our hay fields green up a second time.

I found this freeloader on the plywood sheets on the old house porch. I let it go under the bridge, hopefully it will survive.

Hoss disturbed one of the swallow nests in the rafters of the barn by driving in and out of the barn. The nest fell off the 2×6 it was hanging onto and the nest had baby birds. He spent ten minutes catching all the baby birds running around on the floor and put them and the nest up on the ledge inside the barn. When he came back the next day the only thing he found was a pile of feathers! One of the barn kitties probably had a bird snack after he left.

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.

Till the sun goes down

It has been a long week. Tex got the plague! No man is immune from a good virus, I blame his mother for giving it to him. He was out on the two days needed to ride the baler and put some hay out! So I was going to work, coming straight home, changing clothes, grabbing a quick bite to eat, some water and hitting the fields until dark. It was not all fun and games, there is a definite learning curve to using new equipment and especially when you have never put up hay before. I jammed the thing full a few times and had to dig it out by hand. I backed into a completed bale and caught the string and sucked it up and wrapped it around the guts of the baler. This took a while to get undone. I only sheared one more shear bolt the rest of the week. I would come inside at dark, cleanup and go to bed to wake up and do it again.

Since there are no microbalers in our area, I bought normal haying twine, but it will not fit inside the compartment designed to hold it. So we just set it between the baler and the quick hitch. It didn’t even need strapped down, it would just ride there and pull itself out. We went through ten rolls of baling twine.

One night was spectacular! I had jammed the baler for the third time and just called it quits. I was getting ready to head inside when I noticed the view, it does set things into perspective. It was a good way to end a frustrating day.

Tex finally healed himself and came out to the house on Thursday. We were only about 50 bales from completion and would need a spot to put the bales so we worked on lining one side of the barn with 2×6 boards so that the round bales would not touch the outer walls. I had plans on buying some pretty boards but at the rate we are burning through cash I opted to use some boards that we already had on hand. We used boards left over from building the bull enclosure. Probably a much better deal all around for everyone. We got ten feet into the air and decided to wait on installing the higher boards until we had stacked the hay up to the top board. This would then allow us to just stand on the hay pile and install them without trying to use them as ladders, hold on and then screw them in place. This does require some balance and dexterity and muscles which could be better utilized in stacking hay. Tex jumped onto the tractor and finished out the last of the hay while I ran to town . Slim had come out the day before and knocked down 90% of the grass in our front yard. This was a needed task and at the rate we keep Tex busy neither one of us were going to get to it.

I had Tex hook the hay mower back up and Thursday evening I opted to drive down and start haying down by the school house. Two passes and I heard some loud whine from the drum mower. Now I had just hit a hidden 2” pipe with the mower on the last pass. I discovered that I had ripped off all the blades from one of the drums. All of the bolts were missing! I even managed to find one of the blades. So now I am going to have to order new bolts and blades for the loaner mower. I also had to disconnect the PTO shaft from the mower and dig out all the loose grass that had wrapped around the head and was smoking from the friction. I did mention this is a loaner? I called the place this morning first thing and was told this is their busy season and to be patient they would get back to me. Well they did not get back to me today and I cannot cut any more fields for hay until I get the mower fixed. So tomorrow I will try and order the parts I need and we will see how long it takes them to get to me.

We ended up with 1050 bales that weigh about 45# each, so about 23.5 ton in 8 acres. I have about another 6 acres down by the school house to cut still. We will buy some alfalfa this year and plant two more fields this fall. I am pretty sure we are going to plant 7 acres of Sainfoin and then more grass fields. Our big push now is to pick up all those bales by hand!

Micro Hay equipment, its a thing

Well Tex came out this morning and while we were eating breakfast “Slim” came out. She is Tex’s little sister and she has agreed to dig out the chicken coop and the barn and do a few odd chores this summer. I set her up with instructions on how to clean out coop, we found all the tools and I got her some bleach, a rag and a bucket for after it got cleaned out. Tex and I went out to the machine shed to attempt to get the micro baler hooked up. This proved difficult at best as the first PTO shaft was too long, so we added the quick connect to get three inches more away from the tractor. The PTO shaft just did not want to go on. We then had to change out the posts and adjust everything to get the dang thing lined up correctly. We also had to put in a quart of gear oil into the baler. I was a little surprised by this as the thing is brand new and has not been leaking at all. We managed to read the instructions a couple more times and drove up to the second field to try it out.

Tex went with me as we figured there would be a learning curve. This was a major misstatement as we managed to only make two bales in the first hour and could not get either one of them wrapped in twine. They were totally naked. We managed to shear off two shear bolts and discover that a pair of spring wire pliers are needed to correct this issue. I do not own a pair of said pliers so I did it by hand, which is never fun. I finally got three bales done correctly and Tex went off to work on the machine shed while I tried to figure it out.

Tex outsmarted himself as doubling the row widths caused a ton of problems. The rows are too wide and too much material is present. We would have been way better off had he not done it. It made baling it a lot harder. I spent 3 hours on the tractor and got 119 bales done. Two boxes of baling twine are not going to be enough. We are using a lot of twine. I managed to mess up two bales and had to lift the dump part manually twice. The second time I had to go get Tex, damn thing is just getting heavier and heavier.

Each bale is supposed to weigh around 50#, I went down to the machine shed to get Tex so I could show him how to bale and give him some tips to avoid issues. He was working with Slim and they had gotten 8 sheets of plywood up on the walls. I showed Slim a few more things I wanted done in the chicken coop and she set right to work. I had told her first thing this was only a one day job and she did it! She just dug in and did the job!! So nice and refreshing.

I ran back to town and got 10 gallons of diesel and 10 more rolls of twine so Tex will be able to hit it hard first thing at 0900 tomorrow. When I come home from work I will relieve him and go until dark. The race is on now to get it all done. It does not look like we already have almost 5 ton of hay baled. I think we are going to have over 1000 bales in just the first field only.

It must be even

It had rained the days before so we did not want to cut any new hay. Instead we planned on turning hay. I had a funeral to go to so we got Tex all set up with our new 5 foot power rake. He will turn all the hay this Saturday. This rake will let you pile it all up into a row. I had visions of Tex just following the rows that the mower created. he did one better! He went down one side of the row then at the end of the row he turned around 180 degrees and went the opposite direction allowing the row to double in size and cut the number of rows in half. This was very clever and not something I would have thought of had I done the turning.

Before I left in the morning Tex and I planned out our needed improvements to the machine shop. One of the rafters is broken, we need a bunch of plywood to line the hay room to keep the round bales in and the loose hay out of the new gravel area. We also need to install the bolt and screw organizers that were laying on the floor of the machine shed. I need to get all the bolts and screws organized and out of the multitude of drawers I currently have them in. I am also going to hang some bin organizers on one wall. I need to mount these to a sheet of plywood, so we will be hanging a few sheets up on the walls for future use. We also need to make legs for the new free countertops I managed to snag on the way home this week. Every once in a while those “Free” signs are a big win.

I went to my least favorite big box store and picked up plywood and lumber with a few Knick nacks. I had to wait 30 minutes for help loading plywood as there was only one guy who could do it. There are reasons I dread Home Depot, but I spend so much money there I get the zero interest for 6 months on my charge card and always pay it off in time. I love that deal!! Plus on Saturday at 1600 there is no other place in the area open to buy lumber.

I knew I needed some more baling twine, but with micro equipment I was unsure where I was going to get it. The salesman on the phone seemed to think I could get it anywhere. So I found it at a local store and bought two small, 5000 feet rounds. They did not have Jute cord like the free roll I got with the baler but they had lots of types of plastic cord to pick from. I was not sure if they would fit but its all they had and something is better than nothing.

When I got home and published the blog last night Annmarie spotted the uneven gates on the new stretch of fence. She mentioned that would need to be corrected tomorrow. I told her hay came first but I would think about how to fix it without spending 10 hours reworking two rock cribs.