One of the things I told myself I would do when I started the blog was to be honest about the things that happen on a small farm and why both my wife and I have full time jobs. This year we decided to take the plunge and purchase haying equipment. The real problem with this decision is we have a small tractor and needed micro hay equipment. This is not manufactured in our country, we ended up purchasing equipment made in Italy. I wanted something new thinking that this would cut down my maintenance needs and expenses, time will tell on this decision. I will be sticking with the IRS categories for a farm as that is how my lovely bride uses the categories when she does the taxes.
INCOME total: $7600 from the sale of sheep and cows
EXPENSE total: $64,159
Animals cost $0
Truck & Expenses cost $0
Chemicals cost $0. We did not spray any weeds in 2019.
Custom Hire cost $0
Depreciation cost $0
Fertilizer cost $0
Freight and trucking cost $1916
Equipment cost $33,963
Conservation Expense cost $260
Insurance cost $1655
Vet/Breeding/Medicine cost $332
Purchased Animals cost $0. We did not buy any sheep.
Taxes cost $799
Utilities cost $0
Seeds/Plants cost $702
Gasoline/Fuel/Oil cost $400
Supplies cost $13,367
Feed cost $7306
Rent/Lease cost $924
Repairs/Maintenance cost $2535
Total Income was a loss of $56,559 for 2019. We knew we were going to have to bear a financial burden for the equipment but are hopeful that in four years we will have the equipment paid off and our expenses will drop dramatically for feed.
The part came from Italy for the sickle bar mower. Mr Professional spent most of the day on Thursday tearing it apart and I had to order more tools. I did not have a spanner wrench. I also did not have a large metric open end wrench over 18mm. Since I was already ordering tools I ordered another water fire extinguisher and a new pickup tube for the water extinguisher we have and two metal tank holders. I will mount one on the tractor and one on the side by side so we have water in case of a fire.
Friday we spent the morning pressing in new bearings and reassembling the sickle bar. Once on, we readied the tractor for mowing. I will mow the upper field on Saturday. I think I can get a couple of ton out of it even after all of the flooding.
Annmarie made a Dutch baby for breakfast! I like lemon, powdered sugar and real maple syrup on mine. After breakfast, I grabbed my full coffee cup, full thermos and quart of water and headed out to the tractor. I started to mow as soon as I got up in the field but I had forgotten how long it takes. The field is seven acres and the tractor will only mow 1 acre/hr, that is a lot of circles. I started to fall asleep while going down the rows, I am sure the neighbors thought I was drunk. My lines were all off. I started to subdivide the field into smaller pieces so it would feel like I was making progress. The hawks were amazing. I tried to get a picture of them but I am not sure I succeeded.
After seven hours I was wishing I had two more thermos of coffee. The doe and her twin fawns kept running around the fields. I drove back by the blackberries to see if they were ready. Turns out the first batch of berries are ready to pick. I have a friend who offered to trade huckleberries for blackberries, not a 1:1.
I will turn the hay in a few days and bale it in the morning. It makes nicer bales when you do it first thing in the morning. These will go in the barn. I have 6 ton of small bales to pickup and I have 40 ton of large bales still to pickup. I need to do that this month.
Thursday morning as I was putting on my shoes to go to work I heard Annmarie hollering from the upstairs bedroom. Now I did have my hearing aids in but when I am downstairs and she is upstairs in the master bedroom, technology cannot overcome the should differences. I managed to hear “coyote” and “ram pasture”. It’s all I needed, she identified the threat and gave its location. I ran to the front door sans shoes as they had not made it on my feet yet and grabbed for a gun, I had to move the 22LR to grab the .243. I ran out into the front yard, I need to spray some thistles out of the front yard, and spotted the coyote low on the back hillside and fired a shot and hit it. I took aim again and missed and then the gun clicked on empty. I only had two rounds in it. So I ran back inside and ran upstairs to the bedroom, threw open the closet window and grabbed the 17HMR, no angle and the tree was in the way so I had to run back downstairs and out into the front lawn, two more shots and I was out again! I need to work on keeping the rifles loaded. The coyote was laying up against the fence working on dying. I went in, loaded up on ammo and walked out and finished off the coyote. Annmarie said it was right behind the house where I feed the chickens compost. It would have had one of my chickens in another 15 minutes. When I went back inside the house I realized that the .243 has an ammo butt stock holder! I had ten more rounds!! I am so used to the 17 HMR and 22LR it never even occurred to me to look. I guess I will have to use the .243 more often.
Mr Professional came out to work on the sickle bar mower and tear it apart to replace the broken rocker arm. He found the carcass after following my directions explicitly. He tried to find it just by looking in the general area but it blended in too well. It’s now on the boneyard pile.
Friday we put the sickle bar mower back together with the new parts and it doesn’t make any noise!! It runs fairly quietly, a big change from the broken sound. I will mow field #1 on Saturday. It’s the last field we still have to hay. I may get 2-3 tons, we will know by the end of the week.
Since I could not cut more hay it was decided that I would spray weeds on Saturday. The plan was for me to get up early and do this. I did not get up early, I cooked and ate breakfast, learned from Annmarie that she heard the enemy, racoons, chittering through our bedroom window at 0400. I suspect they were eating cat food from our back porch. I have not seen them since our initial skirmish.
I had to call Mr Professional to get the side by side started. He had not plugged the trickle charger onto the battery so it was low. I used the external portable battery jumper and it fired right up. I managed to put about 50 gallons on the ground before the wind picked up and it was time to stop.
It was only about 1030 so I got back onto the tractor, dumped off the manure forks and went up to the pasture flooded out the worst this spring. I needed to finish the ditch I started last summer and since there is still running water and a mud pit in the middle I need to get the water diverted to my front ditch. So I spent a few hours creating a ditch and a berm. My hope is that if the back creek jumps the bank again it will hit the berm and get diverted toward the back ditch. I did this in both fields, even if they get flooded out it only floods 1/3 of each field instead of 1/2-2/3 of both fields. The water started to really flow once I dug down a foot. I will keep working on the berm for the next 2-3 years until I get it 3 feet high all the way across. I can then plant some grass on it to help hold it in place. My poor right wrist was getting tired from making the bucket dig, then shake the mud out then use the bucket to push me back out of the ditch. It was a very nice day. This field looks much better, last year at this time the entire field was covered in 7 foot tall thistles. I need to spray again.
On Sunday I did get up sorta early, I was out spraying weeds by 0600. I realize in farmer time this is late. I sprayed the barn lot, the ram pasture and all of the field I had just dug the ditch in yesterday. I really needed to get the hay put up so I can let the sheep and this years eating cows up into the green fields.
With that thought in mind I just decided to give making hay bales a try. I hooked up and started the baler up. It took me an hour to get the first three bales made. The first two bales I could not get packed tight enough and could not get the netting to wrap correctly. It kept going around a single roller. I forgot my pocket knife and luckily found one in the tool bag we made for the baler. It was so dull I am pretty sure it could almost pass as a safety knife. I also had to remove the packed hay from the pickup tines. After an hour I managed to get the netting to wrap the third bale. The key reason it was not working was I was going too slow. If I drove as fast as the tractor would go and got the hay feed jammed up the hay packed in well. We ended up with 50 bales of gorgeous grass hay. The best I have ever made, unfortunately it was only 50 bales. Annmarie, Mr Professional and I went out and picked up the 50 bales in 30 minutes then loaded them into the barn. We took the border collies with us and they killed four vole while we picked up hay. I would love to have them when I cut the hay but I am afraid they would get too close to the sickle bar. There are hundreds of voles running around when I cut.
Mr Professional has been working on getting our lavender garden planted. The ground cloth is in, grid laid out, drip line installed and then he takes out 5 gallons of soil and replaces it with premium soil and sets the plant. I managed to kill about half the plants from forgetting to water. So we have an order in for next year to replace them. The tire rubber bark is working out great! I am looking forward to seeing it all done and in about three years the lavender will be approaching full size.
I also cut out part of the flooded fence and then used the box blade to flatten the area and get it all prepped for new fencing. We will install another breakaway point in the field cross fence if the water should break through my new ditch and berm. I am hoping to get that fence done in the next two weeks. Their our two alpaca that need shearing this upcoming weekend.
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.
It was getting dark anyways.