Hay equipment is here!

Well, the much needed hay equipment is here. It arrived on Friday. I had Tex come out and start cleaning up fencing scraps and wood scraps. We have them strung all over the farm from doing all the fencing, since a scrap guy is coming I want to try and get all of it cleaned up, sent away or burnt. The new burn pile is already starting to grow. They tried to deliver the equipment on Wednesday but I was not available for a 4 hour window and told the clerk on the phone that they came at the end of the four hour window last time and if they would do it this time I could do Wednesday. She said no, I had to be there the entire four hours. We pushed out the delivery day to Friday as I knew Tex or myself would be available. I had to go into work that morning and was hoping to be done by 1100. They called me at 1040 to say that they were ready to deliver and in Pilot Rock! I called Tex and went home ASAP. There was three pieces of equipment delivered, the mower, the power rake and the baler.

There were some issues, the company over sold the mower I wanted so I have a loaner mower, it’s a little smaller and does not condition the grass. It’s cheaper should I decide to keep it. The round baler is smaller and only bales about 90 bales an hour vs 120 on the one we want. The one we want still has to come over on a container by ship from Italy. All of this stuff is made in Italy. We had to keep all the shipping material so that the baler and mower can be shipped back to the company when they send us our mower and baler.

I had visions of just backing up to the equipment with our quick hitch system and hooking up to everything and just putting it in the machine shed. This did not happen, as not a single piece was capable of using the quick connect. I kept trying, finally Tex told me I had to take the quick connect off the tractor and hook directly to the three point hitch.

You can see that it almost wants to do it, it just needs a couple more inches. I took pictures and sent them to the company asking for a fix. What good is a quick connect when you cannot use it? Prior to this round of equipment I had four pieces for the tractor and three of them can use the quick connect. This makes switching out a couple of minutes and that includes parking it in the correct storage spot. Now that we have four more pieces of equipment the quick connect can only work on 3/8 pieces. This is not acceptable. I ordered 8 adjustable pins that I can bolt on myself. They are about 2 inches longer so I will gain 4 inches total. Looking at the pictures I think that four inches is going to be plenty. I also ordered a box of various locking pins to hold the equipment on. The cleaned out machine shed is amazing!! There is still quit a bit of dust but I am hoping that when I get the plywood up on the hay side I can start to contain the dust. I may drag a hose out and wet down the gravel, maybe even spray down the entire inside of the machine shed to give it that once a centennial cleaning.

The old floor scale that Annmarie’s dad got from PGG has all the parts, I really want to install it and put all the pieces together. I will need a level poured concrete pad about 4×6 feet first. Next year I may do it. It shouldn’t be too bad, I can use sacrete and I have the mixer. I can just use a piece of cow panel as the rebar.

Zeke got out of the yard twice this week so Tex and I removed all the old scrap wood and fencing that was leaning up in the corner of the yard. So now there is no ramp for him to use as a launching platform over the fence. I also went and dug down the piles of dirt I had placed near the side fence.. He had a 18 inch launching platform to go over the fence. Since doing that on Friday, he has not been able to get out of the yard a single time. Who knows if it is a lack of opportunity or just an unwillingness to leave. Time will tell.

Dug out again

When I went to work Wednesday morning I knew the back creek was overflowing. Our front ditch was muddy and four times its normal size. Unfortunately, I had to go to work and could not just stop what I was doing and go up and unblock the jam. So after work I went to the hardware store and picked up a portable handsaw and a pitchfork that has the tines bent 90 degrees. I figured that would work better than a metal rake at getting stuff out of the creek.

I texted Tex to see if he was available but he had homework. Again, you gotta like a guy with priorities. I made a second change, I put on my chest waders! I even remembered to but a belt on the outside of the waders above my waist to prevent water from getting in rapidly and weighing me down. It’s a safety feature that I figured was important since I was working alone. I also got a pair of rubber impregnated gloves that would dry out fast after I was done. I loaded it all up in the pickup and drove to the upper end. No sense in trudging through the mud the entire distance.

The chest waders were a game changer! I finally just waded into the water and started to pull the piles apart with my gloved hands. I was in water up to my stomach. I made sure to stand on the upriver side of the mass so if it broke loose it would not take me downstream. I spent an hour and managed to tear the large blockage in half. Unfortunately, a tree in the stream bed is the reason for the blockage and there is no fix for that in belly high water. I did manage to lower the water level by about 6 inches in that spot which stopped the water from spilling over the sides. So I was successful and did not have to spend all day. It was a pleasant surprise.

The fields are getting water logged but seem to be recovering except for the growing mud spot. I really need to dig out the irrigation ditch as I believe it could catch the overflow, and run it along side the field then dump back into the stream lower down. Unfortunately, there is no way to get any type of powered equipment into the fields currently. On Wednesday I waited for delivery of the new Power Harrow and seeder. It came on a semi-truck. I was supposed to be available for delivery from 1100-1500. I was home by 1115. The delivery driver called me and then dropped off the pallet at 1445. It was prior to the 1500 deadline. I watched a movie and some bad anime waiting for him to show up. I had to run back to work and got back late. I fully expected to be able to back up the tractor to the pallet, using the quick hitch just hook on and go. I don’t know what I was thinking or why I thought easy was going to work. The attachments do not line up with my quick hitch. I had to remove the quick hitch, extend the tension on the rods and hook it all up. Then I could not lift it off the pallets as my adjustable bar needed to be tightened. This takes a stiff rod poked through a hole. I have misplaced my large screwdriver and every piece of metal I stuffed through the hole bent. I fought and swore and had the harrow in the machine shop 1.5 hours later. I moved the thing 30 feet. I read the very thin manual that came with it and learned nothing from it. I had the electronic copies sent to my email and still need to read them. I need to get this thing up and running in the next 2 weeks. If only the weather will cooperate.

New Power Harrow

Tying it all together

Annmarie was gone for the weekend, this allows me to basically work until I drop. I am not sure its the best plan but I am fairly consistent in its application. She leaves and I spend all day outside just tearing stuff up and cooking things that are not good for me. Now this time I was better about that as last time I made myself sick.

Thing 1 and Thing 2 came out first thing in the morning to help me on Saturday. My ultimate goal was to get the old house torn up and put together today. Since we only got about 80% of one room yesterday It was going to take some concerted effort. I had Thing 1 tear into the old bathroom and Thing 2 and I moved the planer and edger away from the walls so we could tear down the wallpaper and some door trim. The original living room now has the fence and compound radial arm saw.

We tore into the old kitchen next. I handed stuff out. Its easier to just empty the room and filter out what goes back inside. I left the two milk separators and the old washing machine in there. We put the coolers and snow tires in it also. We have three sets of snow tires so we need to check sizes before buying any new ones. I got rid of the handmade fruit dryer. It had a live mouse in it and was made out of plywood and window screens with a fan in the bottom. The mouse got away when it was being carried out to the burn pile. The old bathroom really was a bathroom! We moved the old propane stove from our house over the hole so nothing could get inside. We may use the propane stove to heat this building so we kept it.

The center room had two layers of linoleum on the floor, and the boys tore it out. the floor was brand new underneath. The wood has never been walked on or seen daylight. It is in amazing condition.
There were two doors leaning up against the wall so I used one to cover the opening to the kitchen. Its about two inches too narrow and six inches too short but it covers most of the opening and keeps the dogs out. I found some old mouse poison so I set that out on the shelves of the kitchen. We have cats but obviously they need some help.

The finished main living room no has the saw. The shelves on the right hand side are home to the shop lights until I can get them installed.

This old parts cabinet got moved and cleaned out with 409. I converted it into a place to hold all the screws and nails. I need to see if I can add in some areas for bolts and nuts also. My drawer for that is getting full and its hard to find the part you want. The not well fitting door needed new hinges and I found a coffee can with some used hinges I had picked up at a yard sale a few years back. I knew I would use them at some point. There is a hole on the outside of the house that was an entrance to the rafters. The door fell off and it has been open to the weather since we got back. I need to get a ladder and install a new door in the next couple of weeks. I picked up an old wooden cabinet that is currently stored at Sarah’s that I would like to install on that wall but I need to stop any water from coming inside first.

I had Thing 2 go through all my scrap wood. Any that were shorter than 3′ got tossed out onto the burn pile. I just had to make a decision to let it go. When I get all the storage stuff up into the old chicken coop then I can store more wood in the old house!

I found some cool old knickknacks. I scored three old melamine drawer pulls. They look brand new. I was hoping to find 20 of them but no go. I found a cool old lock and no key and a couple of old cast plates.

As I continued to fill up the old kitchen with antiques that I have no idea what to do with and things that I may need in a couple of years it occurred to me that I should start looking at the old chicken coop. It has a concrete floor and just needs glass to keep the critters and weather out. Once I had the windows in then I could move all this stuff that just needs stored up to that building. I have a bunch of extra windows so now I just need to see about how to make them fit. If I had that storage area then I could really utilize the entire space for my woodshop. I do need to install a door between this tool room and the other two rooms to minimize the dust in the tool room. I plan on ripping out about 50% of the wall between the two main rooms to allow for more working space. I also need to install a new back door. The current one has fallen apart, lost its glass and is held closed with bailing wire. I would like a 32″ door with large window but I will rip out the door casing first to measure the actual door opening. I may be able to get a 34 or 36″ door into the old hole. I decided that it was time to get rid of some of the cast iron I was hoarding. I ended up keeping one Wagner pan and two cast iron teapots. Now I just need to get a small sand blaster to clean them up.

When they were loading up the sheep on Monday a few got away and one of our solar lights by the front gate was a casualty. I managed to find one brand new one stashed on top of a freezer and installed it on the fence.

I stopped to go make lunch and had Thing 1 & 2 keep working on tearing out flooring and wallpaper. I made my famous chicken salad. It is very good. I made 5.5 sandwiches. I was only going to eat 1.5. I brought sandwiches, gatorade and grapes outside as everyone was covered in dust. When I asked how the sandwiches were Thing 2 stated “its okay” then about 30 seconds later he said they were “good” but he only ate one sandwich. Thing 1 ate three sandwiches after asking his brother if he was going to have a second sandwich. So he obviously didn’t care for the chicken salad. Maybe it had too many vegetables in it, I added onion, celery and jalapeƱo.

One of the things I noticed about working with the brothers is that when they are together I have to be more diligent about keeping them on the straight and narrow. When they are not kept busy they are easily distracted. I just kept barking orders occasionally it seemed to work.

I am trying to talk Sarah into having a yard sale at her house during Pilot Rock community days to offload all the stuff on the tarp. We have more up in the new bathroom area that can go also. I think she is going to do it! I found this old school desk. I like it better than the one we picked up a couple of years ago but I had forgotten about this one.

All of this area will be alfalfa by this time next year we will have gotten our first crop off it. Looking forward to only moving 50# bales.

Hay moving time again

Mr Consumer has been out helping me again. I have had him on the tractor discing up the two upper fields. I am going to try and level out the middle field as it is pretty uneven and see if I cannot get it flatter so it will be easier to hay next year. I was able to spend a few hours at it one evening this week working until dark. My wife was out of town and so there was no curfew to come inside and relax. It was just the mistress and I for a few hours. The fields are all disced up now and I will spray them this week or the weekend at the latest to keep the weeds knocked down. This will allow us to disc it one more time and then a friend will bring in his big tractor in the fall for a day and condition the field then I can plant alfalfa. I am getting super excited about doing our own hay next year!

I am especially excited after having to pay for hay again this year and moving all the 65-80# bales. These are light compared to the 110# bales we had two years ago. I am too old and those are too heavy. After moving 8 ton in a day I am bushed, beat, exhausted, stick a fork in me done! Our new bales will only be 50#. They will be round, but since we are stacking them in the barn that won’t be a big deal as the walls will keep them from rolling away.

Mr Consumer and I stacked 8 ton yesterday and another 8 ton today. The stack just gets higher every time we bring in more hay. In the barn we can stack the bales 12 high and it is done all by hand. I have the used elevator I got last year but it needs some welding repairs and since I am taking the welding class this fall, all welding projects have been delegated to next year.

We stacked a total of 9 ton in the machine shed over the weekend. We stacked it high in the middle so that I can lay down a couple of sheets of plywood and fix those broken supports in the roof I broke out last year with the old tractor. It will be a lot easier to work on a six foot ladder than a 16 foot ladder.

I will work on getting the lumber to fix those next week. Things are starting to come together. The bull enclosure is my single big project, if I can get that done then I think I can get the barn addition frame work done this summer. I have a few more fences I want to install but honestly its too late to be fencing. I need to do that next spring.

The machine shed gate got hooked by a trailer so I will have to repair that now. I have learned that anything can be repaired and things will go wrong or break all the time. You just keep moving forward and fix them as they come.

I am going to let Mr Consumer unload the trailer while I am at work! I plan on getting a load every evening and letting him unload it the next day. This is by far and away the best way to unload hay!

This is our club wheat crop this year. It is probably the best crop we have had since we have been back to the farm. I will get a shot once it has all turned a golden color.

Alone time

Now that the easy part was done and the field is burned off it needs to be disced. My little tractor can just pull a double set of four foot discs. It doesn’t like to do it and I have to use four wheel drive and if the ground is too wet I cannot get enough traction to pull the discs. The field was a little wet but I managed to get it done over the course of two days. I always have something else to do on the way to pull the discs. I stopped on Saturday and pushed the burn piles together with the tractor and got one end of the double downed trees burning again. I hope they burn up the entire tree but I am not holding my breath. All the extra limbs are now on fire so it should be pretty easy to work around. I then went and dug the front ditch out for another 25 feet in the upper prime pasture. If I don’t clean it out it starts to grow in and spread out. It was also eroding the ground behind the large blackberry bushes and I just about could not get the tractor past. I am using the dirt from the ditch to backfill a new passage by the blackberry bush. I looked at the upper prime squared pasture and it needs some more ditch work. My initial digging is helping but I need to extend it out and dig a new exit channel, but I had already messed around long enough so I hooked up the disc and started to drag it around the field. I also made a vow to pick up every single rock I found. I had an offer from a friend to bring in a big piece of equipment that would smooth out the entire ground. The trick is rocks are a killer on this machine so I vowed to pick them all up! I just tipped the front bucket upwards and every time I spotted a big rock I jumped off and threw it in the bucket. There were not very many rocks, I bet I got less than ten in the few hours I went in circles.

There were lots of voles and mice throughout the entire field. I almost regretted not bringing the dogs as they love killing them, but they eat every one and after 15 or so each they get some very smelly farts. So I left them in the yard, knowing that Zeke was off the run and hoping he would stay put. I kept spotting various wildlife but I never could get a picture! I chased up a vole and this hawk swooped down out of the sky, snatched it and landed on a nearby wooden fence post. I watched that bird for almost a minute before deciding it would stay put for a picture, as soon as I reached for my phone it flew away, vole clutched in its talon.

I spotted a four foot bull snake partially in a vole hole, again I stopped the mistress and watched for 30 seconds then reached for my camera. The picture above with no snake but various vole holes was taken 2 seconds after it disappeared down the left most hole.

I spotted various baby killdeer running around and had to stop once to let them get out of the way. I really wanted to get that ash layer down into the dirt before it rained so it could get absorbed into the soil and not washed or blown away.

I was circling around and suddenly a hawk jumped off the ground on the far end of the field. I looked over and spotted a nest with eggs! So I skirted around the nest and left a patch of grass and weeds for the hawk and its nest.

The amazing part of this is driving the tractor is a very good core workout. I hear the scoffing now but try to stay on the seat with the tractor bouncing around and trying to throw you off constantly. I finally put the seat belt on and tightened it up across my upper thighs but this does not stop you from keeping your stomach and back muscles tightened the entire time.

I disced the far side and was working down near the upper prime pasture end when another hawk jumped out of the grass and there was another nest with eggs! The amazing part of this is we burned the field on Friday but both nests were placed such that fire could not get to them but the birds could see predators coming. I finally ran out of fuel and had to drive back to the house.

I ended up getting more diesel then digging out the barn lot front creek by hand. I will keep digging a small patch at time until I get it cleared all the way up to the spring.

Sunday I did the same thing, as in I procrastinated in going right to the discing portion of the day. I stopped in the upper prime pasture, as there was no fire to play with and started working on my ditch network. I had tried to dig a small pond but there was too much water and it was forming another swamp. I needed to dig a channel connecting the side ditches with the main ditch. I did this then dug the side ditch down and extended it out into the field. I really need to dig out the center of this area as I have dug a horseshoe shaped ditch. I started digging the dirt out of the middle of the horseshoe with my box blade on the tractor but I only got about ten loads out before it got too muddy. Once the tractor tires fill up with mud and the ground turns muddy I cannot use the box blade. This is the seventh year on my original tractor tires. I am going to try and milk them along for another 2 years. It will be an expensive fix to replace all four tires, probably around $1500-2000.

I did manage to get the entire field disced except for the two hawk nesting areas and the upper end where the super wet low spot is located. I have circled the wet area on the picture below. It is probably almost an acre and it is still too wet to work with my light tractor. What I want to do is let it dry out a little more then get in there and drag it down about 18 inches and use that dirt to build up the entire surrounding area to keep it dryer and let a natural swamp occur. The real trouble is it always dries out in the summer which limits the type of plants we can plant. I would like to plant some type of native grass that can survive the wet time and the dry time. I want to place tall “pecker poles”, 2-3 inch wooden posts that are 8 feet tall. These will be easier to see when the alfalfa is planted, therefore allowing us to avoid the damp area with the haying equipment and tractor. I may even put up some bird nests for the red winged blackbirds. I would love to put up bluebird boxes but I have only ever seen one bluebird here, we are too low in elevation.

I started dragging the dirt out of the swamp area but the predicted rain turned into a deluge and I was loosing traction and body heat fast. I stopped long enough to hike up onto the rock bluff to take pictures. Zeke decided that he had enough confinement time and had dug his way under the yard fence and joined me. He did kill lots of vole and mice while he was busy getting covered in mud.

Every time I go up on the hillside and see the old rock wall I want to rebuild it. Since it has taken me multiple years to work on the one behind my house this will have to wait until I win the lottery or a parent needs a summer punishment for their child. The child must not be afraid of snakes and must be able to move 150# rocks. This probably limits my options way more than they were before which was slim to none before the lifting requirements were added.

Next week I attempt to get the yard mower running as I told Perm Boy that the fuel container was in the old wood shed. Turns out he found the only can of diesel not out in the machine shed. I had to drain the gas out today and managed to get the mower to start once and then it died. I put fresh fuel in it after emptying the tank. I also need to spray some weeds! Oh and the trim inside the house needs to be finished. I did no trim this weekend as the field took precedence. I will now be able to spray both fields and then they can sit idle until this fall. I suspect I will need to spray one more time this summer.

Mistress & Me

I had some gravel delivered this week, 10 yards of 3/4″- and 1.5″- for use around the farm. We have purchased at least 100 yards of gravel over the years probably closer to 150 yards. I now set all the railroad fence ties in gravel as they are a lot more secure and not as prone to softening in the spring. We were running low and I am thinking about drilling holes in the barn lot to create a pen for the bull and rams so we can start controlling our time of delivery on all babies. The bigger rock is for the road that loops behind the machine shed. The road was always just a dirt path but we have slowly started to gravel it in and build it up. The single most important reason is that is how the garbage man loops around and leaves the property. Trash pickup at our house is a luxury and we want to make it easy for them. We also realize that our weather is changing and we get a lot more rain than we used to, this has caused some drainage issues and access problems. Gravel is a wonderful cure all for a lot of those problems. I spread about 8 yards out onto the dirt path behind the shed. We will give it a couple of months then have some 3/4″- brought in and have them dump it directly over the road. We will be ordering some more panels for our barn to help sort sheep and they will come on a semitruck. Also our new haying equipment will come on a semitruck, access is vital for us to have year round. I took the last two yards and spread it in front of the corral loading chute. We now have year round access to the chute and mud will no longer be an issue. This also happens to be where the mobile slaughter parks and since I moved the gate opening this process should go a lot smoother also. The mistress is doing well. She needs a bath and I still need to bang that dent out of the hood but she is a trooper. I remembered lunch after completing these tasks and then went back out to check on the upper prime pasture. Annmarie told me we had water running into the ditch in it.

Water is my nemesis! We just don’t get along and after Annmarie told me it was running in the upper field I just knew the Mistress and I needed to tackle the next problem. Or in my history, create one involving water.

There was indeed water running in the upper prime pasture. It had gotten to the blackberry bush but was not running any further. I dug out the ditch on our side of the blackberry bush and used it to try and level off the area near the fence there. It is very hard to get the tractor by as the hill is slanted into the bush. I will keep using the soil I dig out of the ditch to level this off. I went down the ditch farther near the hand dug well and dug out a trench in the ditch. The ditch. Is covered in grass and if I dig down about a foot then the water runs faster and it will create a low spot where the animals can drink. We just opened the upper prime pasture to the sheep yesterday. The horses are confined to the barn lot so they cannot fallow on all this fresh new green grass.

I drove up through the upper prime pasture into the next one (still working on a name) and noticed that the water was just starting to run out the end and form a swamp by all appearances this started in the last 1-2 days. I had a trench at one point from the central ditch running across the field to the original spring starting point. This got worked away during the hay growing process. I went in and dig a ditch starting at the spring so there was no water in the ditch I was creating. I built up a berm on one side so we can find it and we will just have to work around the ditch. It is needed as another swamp is not needed if we can avoid it. The spring in the middle of the field is running again. The only way to make a pond here is to line it. I have tried twice and the stream just cuts through the berm or the water gets absorbed. If I put a lining in we could have a little pond up here for about 6 months out of the year, probably enough to get a pair of ducks to stop and have babies. This is a project for a later time. The water coming out of this second spring is almost as much as the first so the downstream load is doubled. I expect this to cause us problems down in the barn lot. We think it may actually start running and eroding another path above ground. We may have to put in a culvert to allow us to cross the water. I am trying to avoid any crossings where we drive through the water. It’s not always possible but with the front spring the water is slow and not crazy, just persistent.

I went up and drug out an old ditch on the wheat side of that same field and then dug it back out. There was a 50 yard section that had filled back in over time. I dug it back out. I think when I rent a backhoe next time I will dig this down another 3 feet. If I can get it lower I think it will help drain the field. I need to finish the fence in this section so we can turn the animals loose in this area to forage and eat it down. I will be keeping it clean and weed free this summer in preparation for planting in the fall. We are going to plant Round up resistant alfalfa.

You can see the first spring starting point above. It looks like a little pond but if you look closely you can see the water bubbling out of the ground and forming a current. Its pretty cool. I kept chasing deer out of the fields and noticed these freeloaders eating the new wheat, almost 40 deer. I drove up to the next field to inspect it. This is one I have not burned yet. This needs to be done soon but it keeps raining and I would like a little wind to fan the fire and drive it across the field. Its wet enough I don’t have to worry about it jumping off the field and going elsewhere.

This is the field where Ted, father-in-law, got buried in his mule in the middle of the summer our first year here. Annmarie tells me stories of burying wheat trucks when driving through it at harvest time. The dark patch is solid water and the lowest spot in the field. You can see the two places I tried to drive out into that area and got stuck in the mud. I had to push myself out with the bucket on the tractor. This is with four wheel drive and I kept the box blade on the back to add weight to the back tires. I want to stake out this area this summer. The plan is dig a shallow area about 18-24 inches deep and drag all that soil to the surrounding area. Then I will build a fence around this area to keep the livestock out and just plant grass in the fenced in area. It will either survive or not. Hopefully, this will contain the water enough that we can use the field. I might look into some marsh plants to plant in this area also. The trouble is it doesn’t hold water year round so it does dry out in late summer/fall. So I am unsure how a marsh plant would fare as it is not truly a marsh. Its just a low spot with a high water table some years.