Fields are ready to burn

I made fresh fried potatoes with onions, a touch of jalapeƱo and bacon grease for breakfast. It was very good, after I dished out Annmarie’s portion I added bratwurst to mine and fried it all together. The brats were left over from a couple of days ago and already cooked. I knew I was going to get on the tractor and stay all day. I drug a path next to the wheat field back and forth with the disc. Mind you its only four feet wide and it takes a few passes to notice anything when there is that much vegetation on the ground and it is this dry. I spent all morning doing that and getting the last 7 acre field at the far end of the property. All the fields have bare spots around them and a second bare patch next to the wheat field. I even came up behind the machine shed and disced about an acre of ground. I picked up an entire tractor bucket of wood, metal, rocks and twine as I broke the ground apart. There was a lot of hidden stuff out there.

After I was done with the disc I went and got the harrow/arena groomer and went over everything again. The nice thing about the groomer is the tines will collect the organic material and I was able to just pull over and shake it off out of the way and go right back to clearing a path. This worked well and now I have nice flat and clean paths everywhere. It made a huge difference in leveling out the area behind the machine shed.

One might think it odd to plant that little area but I need a spot close to the machine shed that I can practice using the combo planter/seeder. I have yet to hook it up and apply power to it yet. I also need to set the seed rate and depth once I get started. I want to do all this close to the house so this serves three purposes, it gets the area all cleaned up, it lets me practice seeding and the alpaca will have a newly seeded grass area. Zeke decided to come see me around 1400 today. He jumped the yard fence and came and found me. He played out in the tall weeds and would come within ten minutes of me calling his name. The only real problem is he is being rewarded for jumping the fence. We pushed the sheep and horses back into the barn lot and I picked another bag of plums. There is about 3-5 gallons of plums still left on the tree. The cows stayed back as Zeke was hanging out under the tree with me while I picked.

Zeke was filthy and just covered in these small round stickers about 1/8″ in diameter. I got a brush and the defurminator and set to work on him. He was not happy. I got his head and neck and most of his back. He growled and snapped at me once and we had words. I told him it was his own fault. I let him go and he ran under the front porch and would not come out. Annmarie had to get him out and then she used a gentler brush and I picked them out of this fur. We spent an hour doing that. She asked me if I would bathe him, but he again ran under the porch and would not even come out for Annmarie. I went and showered and she used cheese to entice him out from under the porch. He doesn’t mind a bath and once he figured out that was all she was going to do he settled down.

Stickers are no joke. I ended up with a piece of cheat grass in my left ear last week! It is not fun.

Now I just need to get a permit for burning.

New spraying rig

Annmarie and I have been discussing the need for a vehicle that can assist us with spraying weeds. In my dreams this vehicle is autonomous, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. We talked about getting another tractor but honestly could not justify the cost. We started looking at online auctions for a side by side in the last six weeks. We were starting to pick a model type and looking at run hours and price points. We knew we did not want a new one and we needed an actual utility vehicle so we could mount the sprayer in the back. Annmarie wanted one sooner rather than later but I wanted to pay cash and according to the auctions we were gonna have to pay around $6-8k and then pay shipping, most of them had around 1000 run hours and may not have a title.

My mother-in-law, Donna, called Annmarie to say there was a UTV for sale at the coffee shop. I called on it and it was every thing we were looking for in a UTV. It had four wheel drive, 500# load bed limit, tilt bed, and ended up only having 352 run hours on it and it was a 2006, that means it has only had 27 hours a year put on it. It looked brand new! It happens to have a custom stereo with speakers mounted in the overhead and doors! I have yet to check out the sound system in action. Most importantly it has two cup holders so I can have double the amount of coffee! We paid $4900 cash and now have it stored under cover in the machine shop. We are not leaving the keys in it. Annmarie wants me to get the broken lawn mower fixed. It will start but after about 10 minutes it just cuts out and will not start. I need to get some work done on the chainsaw also but to get it to town I need to clean out the pickup. This is an ongoing source of contention at our house as Annmarie thinks you should be able to hop in the pickup at any time and drive to town. This option is always available for one person if you don’t mind the mess and tools. Plus, you cannot lock the doors as we have no key for the doors anymore after I lost it last year. I agreed to clean up from the fencing and rental work done today. I only need to move two buckets and sweep out the back and I will be done. I still need to empty tools out of the cab tomorrow but it will be usable as a people vehicle very soon. As a farm truck it is fabulous! A few years ago while we were at an auction I bid on a STOP sign. Annmarie asked me why we needed it and I told her that I would find a use for it eventually and for $5 it was a great price. I was emptying the pickup fence supplies and spotted the sign, it is now mounted on the outside of the machine shop between the UTV and our tractor and all our new hay equipment. A perfect reminder for everyone and a cool way to repurpose an old sign.

Beautiful Eastern Oregon evening

Annmarie and I went up to the upper pasture this week to bring in the sheep and the sun was just setting. The farther we got away from the house the more Mother Nature showed her colors. There are times that the dry climate makes for a beautiful setting. It just depends on whether you equate beauty with green. I don’t think that any more, not after being back for 12 years. The sheep pretty much put themselves in every night now. They come down to the barn without us using the dogs to chase them back. The horses on the other hand don’t want to come back to the barn lot. Luckily, the food quality is not good enough to make the horses get fat. The sheep are putting on weight with it and so are the steers so its good enough. No one on the farm gets lush green grass year around. We have been making it a point to leave the dead tree snags sticking up in the air. The owls and hawks love hanging in them and then swooping down to kill mice and small rodents. Anything that kills rodents should be supported, because we have lots of them!

I am going to put in for some vacation this fall so I can replant these upper fields and hopefully get some grass growing in the spring and not all weeds. I did manage to get two overhead tractor lights to mount on my rollbar. One to look forward and one to look backwards so I can run the tractor at night. I think I am going to need this to get all the grass planted and again in the spring when I start doing hay again. I had to stop several times this spring due to a lack of light, this should fix it.

I have been looking at Metric tools but I cannot find a metric only set. I keep looking at 200-400 piece sets that are combination of English and Metric. I do not need the English at all but I am not having any luck getting separate kits. If I by another set I will have three full English sets and one Metric, this does seem odd to me as I only need the Metric. Unfortunately, the sets are cheaper as a combo than when buying individual pieces. I still need to move the last large tool box over to the machine shed. Plus, I need a large trash can in the machine shed. Just tossing stuff into a corner is not going to work long term.

My father had two electric hoists in the garage. One was sufficient for what he needed so the other one was taken down. It hangs from an I beam that is 6 feet long and can move back and forth. I am going to mount it in the machine shed after I build some support beams for it. I need to be able to lift heavy objects without hurting myself.

The chain winch is still frozen and not moving. Someone gave me a suggestion to soak it in oil or diesel. I have a lot of fouled diesel on the place I just need a metal container large enough to hold the hoist and let me fill it with fuel. I can dunk it and let it sit for a few months, hopefully this will allow it to be broken free.

Machine shed ready

Friday we spent the day figuring out how to get all of the hay equipment put back together and into the machine shed. We have an old chain lift that is now hanging and oiled with 200# of tractor weights hanging from it in hopes that it will break loose. I beat on the pin a few times with a hammer but could get no movement out of the lift either up or down. I spray WD40 on it every couple of weeks. It would be nice to have something that could move a thousand pounds without any difficulty. We did manage to get all the equipment mostly put back together. The mower is missing a slender nut on a pivotal bolt. I kept doing a parts search and writing down the id labels so I can place an order for spare parts. I have 15 items I want replacements on hand so it can be fixed immediately. I had gone to my parent’s house and picked up my father’s toolbox. He was a machinist when he was alive so I thought he would have a full set of metric tools. I was wrong, he had a lot of tools and micrometers and dial calipers and inside calipers and then a ton of English tools of all sizes but not a single metric tool in the entire chest! I will be moving my large tool box out of the old house into the machine shed. The plan is to get all of the English tools into the large box and convert my father’s into a metric only box. Annmarie had me order black anodized aluminum business cards and we are going to use the laser engraver to make parts drawer labels for both toolboxes. I will epoxy the labels onto the tool boxes so I can quickly find the needed tools. We were able to get all three pieces of hay equipment and the sprayer lined up in one bay. The end bay is for the tractor to stay out of the weather and a pallet sized area is needed for the cultivator/seeder to live. We had to use the pallet and screw down some wooden supports for the reciprocating mower. It was a little tippy with the blade in the upright stored position. We even placed them in the order they would be needed in the spring! Hoss made a holder for the extra netting to be stored. I opted to keep it in the box to minimize the dirt collection. We did get the baler together and moved but I still cannot figure out how to install the new roll of netting. It is not intuitive at all. I will have to call and get instructions on how to use both pieces of equipment, the rake is very easy compared to everything else. My dad’s toolbox is brown and the small upper part is bolted to the lower part forming one unit. I wanted to put them on a pallet so they did not sink into the gravel. I really need to get some more ear muffs to install near the anvil. Its kinda loud when you start beating on metal. I also need a trash can in here as I have a pile of trash on the floor currently.

Afterwards, I fired up the pressure washer from mom’s and started in on the fence. I figured I could do the whole fence with one tank of gas. Nope, I will need 3-4 tanks of fuel to get the entire fence cleaned off. Annmarie tells me that I am going to end up scraping some of the fence by hand as the pressure washer is only getting about 80% of the loose paint. We are going to use the same paint but this one only lasted 4 years from the first time I painted it. I am going with better preparation the time around will make the paint job last longer. I just slapped paint over it the first time after installing it. I had to move the cars after I blew paint, dirt and water onto them. Annmarie wanted to know what the finger streaks on her car were from. I figured if I did not get the wet paint off of her car it would dry and stick semipermanently. I did not want that to happen!

Machine shed needs to be functional

I decided it was time to get the crates unpacked and gets the machine shed organized this weekend, that goal was a a bigger bite than I was able to swallow in one weekend. I ran into several problems that I did not anticipate.

The hay equipment did not unpack nicely. We got the supports removed from the pallets and all of the loose stuff out And put away but I could not figure out how to get the support arms onto the baler correctly and I could not tell about a safety bar on the mower that looked like I would bend it if I picked it up. We kept looking at it and speculating then finally I announced that I would have to actually look at the operating manual and see if I could find a video online. The Italians are not making intuitive farm equipment.

We worked on getting the bolt organizers up onto the wall. I then spent three hours sorting bolts by diameter, nut, washer and lock washer. I also ended up sorting one column all into carriage bolts by diameter also. I got every bolt I owned onto that wall. I am thinking about getting a small organizer with 16 drawers to put all the metric bolts for the hay equipment in, this way I can keep them separated.

I am using the old metal cabinet for tractor and hay equipment parts. I will also be using the metal red and white cabinets. I need to install a shelf under the bolt organizer so I can put the extra PTO shafts on it. I also have an extra cutting bar blade preassembled. After reading the instruction manual I figured out that I have to rivet those blades onto the bar. It will be an interesting repair to say the least. The far bay will be left open for the tractor, so that it can be stored inside.

I had Hoss add 16 feet of plywood to the back wall. The. Back wall is only 7 feet tall so that left a nice one foot wide piece to use as a shelf. I am thinking about some sort of bin organizer on this wall but honestly I managed to get all the pieces stored in the space I have already. I think the metric bolt organizer is all I need to purchase at this point. The plywood will help stiffen the walls

We put up two more sheets of plywood on the wall going to the hay room. I don’t have all the boards up on the wall separating the hay room from the shop side yet. I will only be putting big bales in there this year and we cannot stack them. No tractor on the place that will lift that much weight. I think I can store 20 big bales on the ground. I will use them last and use the ones stored outside first. I want the plywood up to keep the hay scraps from blowing over into the shop area. We also added two shelves over in the corner. I want to add two more above the plywood. I have some stuff I only use once a year and it can sit up on those shelves. We are running out of 2×4 for more shelves. I need to make another run and buy 10 more.

We did get the new bench made! It is a solid piece of wood, the top I got for free and it is all laminated and glued 2×4. I bolted legs into the ends and used scrap wood from the pallets to make X on each end. I plan on adding a shelf under the bench as I want to store my small compressor under this bench. I also want to put a hose reel above the bench. I love using this to blow out the dirt and weeds from the tractor grill and radiator. The pallet to the left of this bench will hold the two tool chests. I have a large rolling one in the old house that I will be moving over here. It will hold all the English tools and I will bring my father’s out and make it the metric only. I need to get organized so I don’t waste so much time hunting down tools. Whether I like it or not I will be working on this equipment. This means I will need some lights out here. I plan on installing a flood light in every bay. If I control the lights individually I will be able to wire them all into the same 20 amp breaker. I will use all LED lights to cut down the power consumption.

We got rain this weekend. I was hoping for a bunch when it started on Friday but we only got 4/100 while three miles away they got 7/10! Last night it rained again and we got another 1/10 for a total of 14/100. Not exactly exciting but enough to get the grass to turn green, but we were vindicated later today by getting another 42/100 for a total of 56/100, over 1/2 inch of rain! The best part is it did not all come at once so it all got absorbed into the ground where it fell. We just need a pleasant week of moderate temperatures and the grass will start growing everywhere.

We are sold at this point on getting a combo welder/generator so we don’t have to install a new power panel service in the shop. The electrical service would cost us more than the generator.

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.

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.