Haying forever

It has been an incredibly long week. I am supposed to make several posts and spread out all this information but honestly, I just don’t have time. The weather is against us, we are under a “heat dome” now and it is currently 108F. It is supposed to get to 115 and may last for at least ten days. It is absurd, our heat pump is not keeping up so we are at 75 degrees inside the house it may get to 80 by the end of the week. It is definitely not the pleasant 72 degrees we usually keep the house at during the summer.

I did have a lot of help off and on throughout the week. Mr Rain Man came out at 0530 on Tuesday to help me with baling of the hay in field #1. I had no idea how much hay was in that field. I think we are going to get about 3.25 ton/acre. It is our best performing field for sure. The problem is we keep hitting moisture issues and its making it hard to bale. Mr Rain Man had never ran any equipment this small but due to the heat he could only work until around 1100 in the morning. He did this for two mornings until he got a piece of something in his eye and had to spend a couple of days irrigating it. I blame the contact lenses. He came out on Saturday to help move a little hay.

I managed to bale hay for a few hours one evening. We have over 800 bales on the ground and have still not managed to get all of the loose hay baled yet. The front porch is a dream, I have been focusing on trying to get the hay bales off of the field and into the barn. But its taking so long due to the heat that the porch is on hold for at least two more weeks. Annmarie and I are actually going to leave town for a week. I ended up working all day at my paying job on Friday so was unable to do any farm work.

Mr Professional came out and got the hay rake repaired and welded together one late night after it cooled off. No one wants to work in the heat, its miserable.

Mr Rain Man, Mr CrossFit and Mr I Need a Belt Bad all came out on Saturday. Mr Rain Man came out at 0530 and started baling hay. Mr I Need a Belt Bad came out at 0730 and spent about 45 minutes weeding the back garden. He forgot to bring a long sleeve shirt and he knew we were going to pickup some hay. It’s going to be a miserable day. We grabbed the pickup and went out and started to fill it up with bales. Mr Rain Man went back to the house with us as he was just not getting the hay to feed right. All of us unloaded hay, I did more supervising than working. I did provide some verbal instructions for Mr I Need a Belt Bad related to inertia and lifting with shoulders and using a knee to keep the bale moving. This “feedback” was continued for two days to give him an edge. It’s hard to keep up without using all the available muscles to the best of your advantage. He is starting to catch on. He should have it down by the time we get all the hay done!

Mr CrossFit and I worked on getting three 3’ wide barrier cloths installed between the raspberries and blackberries. We did this after moving hay on Saturday. We had plans to set the lower railing posts in concrete also but after doing the barrier cloth it was too hot to do any more work. Annmarie wanted to cut down on the weeds and it just so happened that one of my coworkers was getting rid of some rubber bark! There was enough donated rubber to do about 2.5 barriers and we used a few bags of leftover from the lavender patch. We only have about 7 bags unopened now and I will need to put them out on the lavender patch so the sun doesn’t eat the bags.

Sunday, Mr CrossFit and Mr I need a Belt Bad unloaded a pickup load into the barn and then we got two more loads. Mr Professional and a helper came out Saturday night and loaded in 110 bales into the barn. We got another 3 + ton into the second barn bay today, so 5+ ton into the barn in the last 24 hours. There was so much hay that the last load we closed the lower doors on the barn and opened up the upper doors. The hay had to be tossed up to the overhead opening. That electric 16’ hay elevator really needs to get repaired! Tossing them by hand is not easy and Mr CrossFit was moving as fast as he could to get the bales loaded as high as possible. Mr I Need a Belt Bad took more instruction. He is hanging in there. Honestly, hard work and perseverance are the key to success and should be fostered. As long as he keeps working and trying he is welcome to come out. After we get the hay in we will need to start digging out the barn, which is a miserable and smelly endeavor. I would not say that I am the easiest boss to work for, I do provide instruction and set expectations and provide feedback. The feedback can be colorful but it does get the point across.

Back to haying with some interruptions

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.

It’s not done till it’s done

It’s not done till it’s done

Saturday the plan was to start earlier in the day. Mr Hustle and Flow did not like busting bales during the heat of the day in triple digit weather and wanted to do it when it was cooler. This is a reasonable request and was accommodated. They showed up early and we went out to the pickup by 0600. All good ideas must be punished or tarnished in some way, the capricious Lady Luck had some say in their choice. It appears that the last one to move the pickup yesterday was Mr Flow, he left the ignition key turned to the on position. The battery was DEAD! No problem, I will just go get the portable battery vehicle jumper I just replaced this year, yeah, it was dead as I have not needed it since I initially charged it up. You do have to plug it in occasionally to keep it charged. Okay, there is a work around for this, I grabbed the jumper cables and had Mr Hustle go get the tractor/baler combo out of the orchard. I needed it soon anyways so this will just ease my access. Mr Flow tells me that the tools in the pickup glove box will not remove the battery terminal as it is severely corroded again. Magically, my battery terminal cleaner, that was stored in the glove box was missing. I hunted in several places but could not find it, I did however find a small wire brush. Finally, the terminals were clean, the tractor was here and the pickup started on the first try. We just left the pickup running for the next two hours to make sure that the battery had a chance to get recharged. My brilliant idea did work, the sheep cleaned out the entire baler and I did not have to dig out any blockage!

At 0800 my next helper came out, Mr CrossFit. He is going to be in the area for the next three months and had never been on a farm to help, his wife said he may be up for some farm work and he decided to come out. He showed up just in time as we had just pulled into the barn lot with a full trailer and pickup bed full of bales to unload. No rest for the wicked, so he went right to work. I did have to give a little instruction as to the benefits of using your legs to lift and throw a bale. When you have to do this all day the leg trick makes all the difference in the world. I went out with the three of them and we picked up the cheat grass bales. The overhead walkway was ready for these and we will use them as bedding instead of buying straw. The helpers groaned internally when I showed them that they had to go up stairs and stack them all in the walkway. We have about 80 bales up there now ready to just be tossed off for bedding! I realize that there is a lot of extra labor going in on some of these projects but it is all designed to make our labor much easier this winter. I left the three of them alone to finish picking up bales while I went out and baled some more.

I managed to get another 100 bales completed and now field #2&3 are all done. #2 still has some unbaled hay along the creek side but again, after jamming the baler another six times I was done! Turning it did help but some is just still in the tall grass and I cannot get it baled without jamming. I did the sheep trick again and drove it down to the orchard for a sheep clean out. I was going to help with the hay removal process so the sheep can do their part. I also sheared a shear bolt for the second time and just did not want to mess with it any more for the day. I went and got more diesel for the tractor and filled up the pickup, I managed to get 25 gallons into the pickup, it was getting close to fumes and the gas gauge is not very accurate on the low side. Older vehicles and equipment need a user manual, for sure, just to understand all the quirks. We hit it hard and managed to fill up the entire first hay room. It is stacked all the way to the door, and the second room has started getting round bales. We have managed to put away 17 ton of hay in the last two days. I am keeping track of which fields and how much is coming out of each field so we can start to do some projections for how much hay we will be getting next year.

Haying until it is done

Haying until it is done

Friday was the day to dig back into the hay. I even managed to get out and get to bailing by 0730. This seems late but I had to to fill the tractor with diesel, blow off the entire tractor with air, paying special attention to the radiator to get all of the dirt out of it. I have a screen filter in front of the radiator that catches all of the weed particles but the dust will clog up the radiator if you do not blow it out every day during the summer. I focused on field #2 and noticed that the rows near the creek side kept jamming the baler and then I had to stop and dig it out by hand. Yes, I do turn off the pto, turn off the tractor after I lift the rear of the baler, and I even turn the hydraulic valve closed to keep the baler open. The baler lid weighs far more than I want squishing my while my head and body are inside the baler trying to clean it out. I finally got tired of digging out jams after five times and just quit rowing on that side of the field. It has to do with my mowing job. The grass was super tall and I ended up only cutting about 70% of it so the still live grass is jamming up the baler. I need to change the blade on the sickle bar obviously. Mr Professional came out in the afternoon and turned all of the loose hay that I had not yet managed to bale. I managed to bale over 500 round bales with the Minibaler and finished the neighbors field A.

Mr Professional got a couple of young men from up the road to help us start moving the hay into the barn. The unfortunate part of this is that the hay has to go to the ceiling, which is 16 feet high! I have not welded the old hay ladder find I picked up three years ago yet so it is all done by hand. I am thinking that the ladder is going to have to become a winter project this year. I have dubbed the new helpers Mr Hustle and Mr Flow. I did the baling while they did all the heavy lifting, the people in my life who think I should still be taking it easy will be happy. I am not very good at being inactive. I have lost my popeye arms and upper back muscles. Any activity causes a lot more muscle weariness than I am used to tolerating prior to Covid. I am feeling much better, just saw the cardiologist this week and will continue meds for another three months. It is improving and for that I am grateful even if I am a lot frustrated.

Mr Hustle told me that he saw a cougar last week on our place. It was up on the rocky hillside by field #2. He watched it come off the hillside and go into the tall grass then a few minutes later all of the deer ran out of the field. They come up to the corner of the field to get a cell phone signal so tend to hang out in their cars for a while whenever they feel the need for electronic device time. There is no cell phone signal up the canyon from us, not really any even at the end of our place in spots. The only really decent cell service in the area is Verizon if you are looking for all around access any where in the state. It’s different when you are in a city but once you get into the rural areas the access can change dramatically.

I ended up jamming the baler one last time and just called it quits, I was tired of digging it out. I had an epiphany and decided to not clean it out, I just drove back to the house with it all jammed up and drove right into the orchard. I lifted the back end of the baler and locked it open. My hope is the lambs in that field will just reach in and clean it all out before I get to it the next morning.

Haying is not going smoothly

It has been a long two days. I worked a 19 hour day between my paying job and the farm. The lights we installed last year are really helping. The weather was beautiful and I was able to use the rake while wearing short sleeves and even once the sun went down it never got super cool. I just kept going. Until I broke the rake. It has two legs off the back and square tubing that is bent 30 degrees. It broke right at the bend and this ended my raking at 2300 instead of midnight like I had planned. So now the new welder needs to get in play again and fix this issue. I want to be able to reinforce this angle and purchased some angle iron and flat iron to be able to make this happen. I am going to need to create a spot in the machine shed where I can store all of these scrap metal pieces to use for various projects.

Mr Professional has been out of service for the last couple of days and was returning to the farm today. I gave him the good news that I had broken the rake. But I wanted him to stay focused and just get the old John Deere 336 baler up and baling the hay I had rowed. We need bales made! he got it going this afternoon and in under one hour made 200 forty pound bales before it made a noise and stopped working. Turns out we need a new bearing. I had to come home early and take a nap and had enough time to run into the parts store. I was running on empty and could not keep going. I got a bearing, picked up a sandwich for us to split and headed home. The bearing looked weird but it was a part in hand. Mr Professional was already out in the field making round bales. I looked at the broken baler and broke out the repair manual. Come to find out we needed the gear box bearing seal. All of the oil had leaked out and according to the book we need to pull the entire transmission out of the baler! So this will not be a two hour fix.

I went out in the field just as Mr Professional broke the mini round baler. He took the covers off and the shear bolt was broken. The problem with this is he took the tool bag out of the canvas bag on the tractor. He violated the tool rule!! We both know that the tools have to be on the tractor, this is why we have a special bag with all of the correct sized tools to repair the baler. So we had to go back and get tools and shear bolts and then he left me to go work on the old John Deere Baler. I started in on it and kept getting both gears to turn when I turned the baler splines. The internal gear should be attached to the shaft which should be stationary as the tractor is not moving. The only reason it could move is if the same gear insert problem we just welded on the other side happened on this side. My gut said it was the problem. I was texting Mr Professional who kept telling me to just replace the shear bolt. Hard to do when the gears won’t align. I was saved by a call from work and I had to go into the hospital, problem was I am dirty and covered in grease. I went home, turfed the problem to Mr Professional and went and got cleaned up. Big surprise 30 minutes later he is pulling it into the machine shed. The exact same problem occurred and it needed to be torn down to expose the gear so it could be welded to the insert. I was called off of work but I was now clean. I ended up doing some dishes, putting away laundry, watering my plants and starting Roomba. I even took the time to work on the blog!! I want to get to bed before midnight and I will need to be working nonstop after work for the entire weekend to get the hay thing under control. I am hoping we can get the bearing tomorrow for the old John Deere. We made about 200 square bales and 25 round bales. The square bales are around 40# each and the round are calculated at 50# but probably weigh closer to 65#. We will need to weight some to get an accurate count. So about 4.5 ton are baled and the property owner gets half, we get the other half.

It only took Mr Professional two hours to tear it apart weld it and put it back together! It took 8 the first time on the other side. It is 2230 and he is out on the little tractor in the dark making round bales. I am going to go to bed so that I can get at it tomorrow afternoon and on into the night also. It is nice to work with someone who gets it.

Snoop, the alpaca, is so lazy he is laying down and eating baled hay off of the old baler!! That is lazy.