Annmarie says I need to quit complaining about there being too much hay this year, since last year I complained that there was not enough hay! I told her I am embracing my inner farmer it has just taken me a while to internalize the dialogue. We were going to leave the farm for a whole week and I was super nervous that the hay would just lay on the ground an not get baled. Luckily for me a nasty weather front moved in and it has rained for the last three days! This has put the haying process off at least several days so now I can enjoy my time away from the farm guilt free. Our lavender patch is really shaping up this year. The bees from our hive love it and no plants died this last winter. We are hoping that by next year the plants will be nice and mature. Every year they get a little bigger.
The baler had a broken pickup tooth, so on Saturday first thing in the morning I decided to be a mechanic. Now honestly I don’t like to mechanic, but I do realize that it is a necessary evil. Mr Professional usually does all of the repair work. It was too early to bale so I decided to take on changing out one set of pickup rakes as that was what I was told was broken. Well after having broken a bolt and breaking out the grinder, hammering a piece straight on the anvil and discovering a second broken pickup rake I was two hours into the repair before I had them both changed out. I decided, after searching YouTube for a repair video and finding nothing, that I needed to start recording repair videos and posting them for everyone else who cannot find anything. So I took snippets of videos while I was doing my repair and now I just need to learn how to edit and mash all the snippets together into one video. I may even have to do voice over on the videos even though I did talk while filming the snippets. I am trying to work on a TikTok channel but I am not sure if I can figure that out or not. Somethings I don’t understand well but daughter #1 tells me I need to get with the times.
The girls are managing things while we are away. So daughter #1 and daughter #2 are in charge! Daughter #2 has been watching the sheep and so far it is going amazingly well. We have had triplets, twins, single, twins, twins, triplets. The last set of triplets today the single mother took over one of them! We are so keeping her, if she will foster out an extra baby every year she is worth the effort to hold onto her. It is hard to find a non-picky ewe and having 1-3 of them in the flock is a true blessing. Lambs don’t go hungry when you have a few in the herd. So far this year our lamb productivity is at 200%! This is the best start we have ever had.
Daughter #2 could not start the John Deere tractor this morning. She texted me and I was sure that the battery was acting up again, nope, she did not have it in neutral!
Well as always things progress on Mother Nature’s schedule. I keep thinking she will cut me some slack, and honestly she did, I was able to work on the front porch for three days straight a week ago! Now it is back to haying. I have one field left, #1, 7 acres of grass, triticale, oat and something else. It’s a pretty big mashup from all the different attempts to plant and the flooding. The field looks great but seven acres is going to take at least 7 hours to cut and as thick as it is it will most likely take even longer. So I went out on Thursday after work to do some cutting, Mr Professional was already out cutting so I swapped him out so he could go home. I only managed a to do about two hours before I broke the sickle bar mower. I thought it was making more noise than normal and I was right, except being right meant the mower was broken again.
We have a bunny living on the place, it keeps running around the corral, barn and car area. We spot it almost every day. When we were working cows it just kept hanging around us, never really ran off. I think it is one of the Pygmy rabbits native to Oregon. We get them occasionally but usually they succumb to the predator birds. Who doesn’t like rabbit in their diets? We would not mind having a few on the farm but they can never seem to get established.
Friday was maintenance day, my least favorite day of the year. I can mechanic, I just really don’t like to do it. We ended up breaking the sickle bar bolt that joins the bar to the rocker arm. The real problem with this is it is a double threaded bolt, it is threaded through the arm and then a nut to lock it in place. The real problem is there is not very much room on the backside of the arm and you have to use two fingers to get the nut on as soon as the bolt comes out of the arm. When the bolt brakes this causes a problem as there is very little room to work and you have to break out a drill and easy out. We were able to have enough of a lip to cut a groove in the end with a sawzall and then use a flat head screwdriver and some WD40. It worked and we were able to get the old one out, since we were working on the mower we swapped out the cutting bar blades also. This would have been easier if we had pressure washed the blades first. It took a ratchet strap and an anchor point to pull the blade out after I had it unbolted.
After a few hours we had it all back together and working. Mr Professional was turning hay while I baled it. I was having trouble with the baler as it kept jamming. Mr Professional thought I was going to fast so we switched jobs, I accidentally ran over a completed bale and caused the rake to slam into the ground breaking the wheels again. I thought we were done, nope he just tore off the wheels and kept going. This does need to be corrected eventually but for now this will work. It looks pretty weird. We finally just gave up on baling. It was too wet so we went back and swapped out the baler for the mower and I went out and finished cutting the last two acres. I can drive around in circles no problem. I brought a couple of bales back to the machine shed and tested them for moisture content 24-30%, too high.
Saturday was scheduled to be our big day, we were going to do cows. Honestly, I think that all couple therapy should have a live animal sorting component. It’s brutal and yes, I am learning but I still keep screwing up. So after the first thirty minutes we had a routine. I had gone in to pick up Mr I Need a Belt Bad, and Annmarie called me to say we needed tick medicine. So we waited for the ranch store to open and picked up some pour over medicine and some fly bags. Annmarie had already moved the mommas and babies into the barn lot and everyone was ready to be sorted. We moved the calf table onto the end of the corral chute. The plan was to crowd the chute, dose the mommas and then sort them off and then deal with the calves. The chute is spreading and has been for several years. I had always intended to put chains up high to prevent that from happening but have never done it. It’s going to have to happen. There are two gates that won’t latch, one is just spread apart and the other is on the down hill side and the gate keeps tipping up away from the predrilled holes. I need to stop the downhill slide. So I added the corral to the to do list for this year.
We got medicine on the mommas, and managed to get all of the calves tagged but one. It was a squirter, it got past the neck lock and then Annmarie and Meathead tried to catch it, they were hollering for me, but I was in the chute and by the time I got out and touched the calf it got away. Luckily, its a little girl. We found another boy with undescended testicles. It’s scrotal sack was empty and shrunken so there was no way for me to use the bander. I may have to learn how to cut instead of using a bander, maybe just cut if there is no other option for me. It’s a stupid problem but one we keep having. So now we have a bull from last year (one nutter) and now we have a fully intact calf. They have to stay off by themselves after they are weaned. Meathead ended up getting bitten by one of the calves when she was holding their head. I did not think they would do that but the obvious bite mark on her palm contradicts my belief!
Mr Professional came out about the time the last calf got away so we opted to push them back to the barn but they had ran down to their old stomping grounds. They were wild, crazy, panting and drooling and would not go where they needed so Annmarie just called it off, we will do it later, they were too stressed. Unfortunately, our plan to just let the calves go did not work, we were missing one. So the five of us searched the area, I used the tractor, and Mr Professional found the calf at the far end of the driveway down by the cattle guard. This is looking more and more like I need to put in the double gates down by the in-laws house so when we work animals we can close the gates and keep them from running and hiding from us. This didn’t make the to do list but it keeps coming up as an option. It took six hours to do all of that, sort the eaters and sort off the bull and put him in with the females. We also pulled off three breeders from the feeders who were hanging out in field#4 and tossed them in with the bull. He should be happy now! He has been locked away for over six months. The one nutter and a steer are now in Alcatraz as there are a couple of young heifers in the feeder herd. We have seven cows for sale this year, a one nutter and a ground beef only 15 year old cow are in that total. We really have handling the sheep down to an art, and working the cows is an act of frustration. I have added a corral remodel to the list. We need to create another pen, a calf chute and a place for the calf table to reside so we can work easily and keep all of the calves contained. This means actually drawing up some plans, taking some actual measurements and then gathering all of the materials. I already know we will need to custom create at least three gates but most likely five to fit the new configuration. I want the chute to be smaller, our current one is 24” wide, so I am thinking 16”-18”. I want it too small for the adult cows to enter, so it should probably only be 16”. I will need to chain the entrance to keep it from spreading and maybe even put a chain lower down so the adults would have to bend down to get lined up on the narrow opening. This can only happen in the spring when the ground is soft enough to really make drilling holes with the auger easy.
Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I ate lunch then we talked about him weeding the garden and porch area. We still need to work on our communication. Annmarie tells me I did not let him give me a stop time, I asked for a job time estimate and he said an hour, I figured two for the job. I paid him for the day and then went out to turn hay, while I was hooking up the rake he left, after an hour. I suspect he had already given a stop time to his ride but that was not communicated to me. So I have a new plan, quitting time is 1630, every day he comes out. This just makes it easier on all parties and we all know the stop time. Sometimes I forget what it is like to be around teenagers, then they remind me. One would think after all these years and countless teenagers I would have this down to a science but they are all different and it takes a while to get things figured out.
I went out and finished turning the hay, I love the smell. Plus, we have a set of baby deer twins that are cat sized! They are very tiny and very cute. The birds love all of the grain and the hawks love the voles that get disturbed. It is very peaceful to just go around in circles, listen to a book on tape (nothing educational, pure pleasure) and drink water/gatorade. In the morning I will start baling and get it all ready for someone else to pickup and put in the barn.
Since I was stuck home due to the quarantine and felt great finally, I decided to get some more farm work done. The upper three fields need to be cut so they can be turned into hay. The Upper Prime Squared field is going on its third year as a grass field and it looks great! It is the best field we have and one I am aspiring to get the others to duplicate. So I opted to start on it. The real problem is it is still covered in some flood damage and I was unable to get it all cleaned up. When I was using the sickle bar to cut the hay I kept running into the dirt/grass piles and it did not like this. I had broken all three of my spare bolts when I realized I had only managed to cut 2/3 of the first field. I spent an hour on the phone with the micro hay equipment company. They did not have any of the needed bolts or parts. The arm that had some cracked bearing casings had to come from Italy. He did not know of anyone else that had broken theirs in the past so it was not on hand in the parts warehouse. He is supposed to be getting me a quote from the Italian company. I am starting to get desperate enough to look on Italian websites for the company and purchase my own spare parts cabinet. I am just trying to figure out how to do it. This may come as a necessary evil. If anyone knows someone who can read Italian and knows about micro hay equipment, give me a holler.
So I am still on the hunt for 3-4 metal cabinets, one for herbicides, one for oil products, two for spare parts for the haying equipment. I need to get organized. I could not cut any more hay so I developed a plan for Annmarie to pick me up some bolts and nuts that I can weld a slant onto then grind them to some semblance of a cone. Mind you I only have access to a wire fed welder and I never got to practice with a wire fed in my welding class, that was the next class. Of course that night it rained 3/100 of an inch, me cutting hay so far this year has 100% rain predictability.
On Friday, I spent two hours welding and I use that term very loosely an approximation of a cone. On half of them I welded directly next to bolt head and on the other half I sandwiched two bolt heads together and welded a small bead around the second nut. I then ground all eight down to form a cone. To get it to fit inside the hole I had to take some of the protective pieces off of the sickle bar. I then had to figure out how to use an easy out to remove the broken bolt. This went on and on and on for a total of seven hours before I finally got it all back together. It got greased very well, two zerks are missing and need to be replaced, I ordered them the day before from parts warehouse. I started it up but there was still this weird clanging. I went out and finished the last 1/3 of the field and made it one time around the second field before it broke again, 2 hours of run time only. The arm part now has a deformed head and bearing which means I need a new part. I am not a gracious mechanic. There were lots of explicatives used throughout the day and some blood letting. No more hay gets cut until I get a new part.