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.
Last week was very hectic for us. We managed to get our new equipment off the truck on Friday. The new baler and the new mower were both there, but no baler netting. I made the semi truck driver check his inventory for a third pallet, no third pallet present. I checked my phone for an invoice in my email, no invoice present. The baler is quite a bit bigger than the loaner and it has a hydraulic hookup on it. I did not expect this and don’t have 1/2″ takeoffs on my tractor only 1/4″. So now I need to figure out how to get an adaptor hose or get a rear set of hydraulic takeoffs installed on my tractor.
I had asked for some spare parts but without an invoice I do not know what is extra or is supposed to be included. I will message the company and hopefully get an answer. Until I get an answer I am going to leave the equipment on the pallets it was shipped on. Who knows what will happen. We got the other two pieces back onto their original pallets and strapped down. The mower is broken, I bent the shaft on one of the cylinders when I hit the hidden pipe down by the schoolhouse. I will need to pull that pipe out of the ground before I try and cut hay down there again.
I had grand plans of working on fencing all weekend and making loads of progress, but that was a dream in an ideal world. Instead I spent 30 hours working night shift at work. This did not equate to any work getting done as Hoss was sick and decided to take the weekend off in an attempt to rest up and heal up. We have been bringing in the sheep every night as they keep having lambs! Its starting to turn into summer in Eastern Oregon. The terrain is showing what it is really like to live with minimal rain. We got 1/100″ in a 30 minute window and I was cheering. Unfortunately for us, it stopped and no more rain came, none of the wheat farmers were happy even with the minuscule amount. Oddly, our back creek is still running at the end of July. Its not much but it is actively moving and we are hoping it will make it to the first of August. If so, then that will be the latest the spring runoff creek has ran since we moved back to the farm 12 years ago.
Sunday afternoon we opted to sort lambs as our buyer had contacted Annmarie Sunday morning. We were unsure how many lambs we had and needed to give an accurate head count. We also needed to sort them off so they would be ready and could just be driven into the corral and out the chute, in and out in 15 minutes is the goal. We used the dogs to move them into the back barn lot. We had already set up the barn for sheep sorting. Annmarie got them into the barn and decided to invite the dogs into the barn while I moved gates around outside. Next thing I know I hear her yelling both dog’s names and some violent movement in the barn. By the time I made my way into the barn she had both dogs corralled and placed into the hay room. I thought that Mouse had been the bad boy and lunged for one of the new mommas with babies. Nope, Zeke’s arch nemesis ewe had a set of twins, she would not back down and Zeke went for her throat. He has hated this same ewe ever since he was a puppy, she used to stomp on him. He has not forgotten her, and the hatred is mutual and expressed by both parties. We then proceeded to push about 2/3 of the herd into the back sorting area and tried to get them to go down the chute. The chute run was not a popular event, no one wanted to start the festivities. There was some grumbling amongst the worker types as to who should do what and where should they stand and when should they lean near the chute. Once that was all worked out in terse undertones the sorting began. Let it be said that I now wear my “I herd you” border collie T-shirt and Annmarie wears her “I can’t keep calm it’s lambing season” shirt when we sort sheep. I also like to wear the “I am sorry for what I said when we were working sheep” shirt, as it is far more relevant. Honestly, until you have done it and then had to redo it and then had to do it again all in the same day you will not understand. Now throw in some random animal craziness, stuff breaking and a dog escaping and you have reality.
We sorted off the lambs, I was supposed to be counting them and marking them by gender in my phone. I got done and had managed to count a total of 43 sheep to sale. I had Annmarie come down and count with me in the far pen. We counted several times and I got anywhere from 38-43. We finally just ran them back through the chute and counted again. We have 44 sheep for sale. We kept 8 for us and the locals that want to buy directly from us. We have 5 sold so far and we may take at least one. We pushed the rest of the herd out onto the back hillside and orchard. We will keep the for sale lambs in the back barn lot and just feed them hay for a day. He will be here Monday afternoon to pickup the sheep.
Before the sheep sorting adventures, our progeny, sent me a link to an auction that was only 13 miles from the house. I went to said auction and picked up a very nice leather wrapped chest for $70 and an old hand water pump for $35. I found a bunch of semi precious stone jewelry and spent the other half of my money on it. Annmarie was very happy with my finds. I will need to get the outside of the chest clean as it is very dusty and the leather needs conditioning. I am looking forward to what it will look like when it is all cleaned up.
Hoss is working on getting the loaner hay equipment back on pallets so we can get it shipped back. Our hay equipment is supposed to arrive on a freight truck on Friday. I plan on cutting hay on Saturday. I am hoping to get another 5 ton baled.
Hoss came out today and we worked on setting posts. Now Annmarie got back yesterday and her list was quite a bit different than mine. Since I needed to get him started we opted for loading up the back of the pickup with gravel and driving up to set posts. I set all my wooden posts in gravel now and tamp it down with a metal breaker bar. The breaker bar weighs ten pounds and it is painful to use but the post is solid when I am done. We dug out dirt then placed the posts, I had forgotten my level so Hoss reminded me to use my IPhone with an app. Yep, it worked and all the posts got set without us having to make a special trip back for an old fashioned level.
On the 18th post, second load of gravel, my left forearm started to cramp. I was using the breaker bar and Hoss was shoveling gravel. We started alternating early on as the poor guy doing breaker bar is working a lot harder than the shovel guy. My forearm just said “we are done” and would not allow me to use the breaker bar anymore. So instead we went back down to the barn to do something else. Hoss was going to be here till 1600 so I might as well keep him busy.
I had fixed the crossing on Friday where the sheep were getting out. I really just need to move the fence line and take the water crossing out of the equation. It will take a solid 8 hours to tear out the old fence and install the new one. It’s on the list but not as high as the two upper fields.
We came down and fixed the barn floor. I took a saw and ripped off two inches in width off of the last board to be installed and we dropped it down into the opening. It left a 1/2″ gap on either side of the board but no lambs foot should be able to fall through. We then brought all the sorting chutes back into the barn and installed them. Since we were on a roll we tossed out fresh straw and cleaned up the milking area. We even made a trash run and cleaned out the trash. I have some trash left in the tack room still that will need to go out. I need to buy some large nails to install over by the windows so our temporary panels can hang neatly.
Annmarie had to bummer one of the new lambs last night. We are pretty sure its from our #1 ewe. She is our oldest herd member and she is skeletal thin after delivering twins. She just doesn’t pay close enough attention to the new lambs. The one Annmarie had to remove just couldn’t keep up. Her other lamb is tougher and more active so it manages to keep up with her. I don’t think she will live another year. We wandered the orchard and found another single lamb that had been born. I shared my cherries with the sheep and soon had 20 of them following me around the orchard. Annmarie was able to scratch on the ram after he came over looking for some attention. He is our second best ram ever.
It has been a long week. Tex got the plague! No man is immune from a good virus, I blame his mother for giving it to him. He was out on the two days needed to ride the baler and put some hay out! So I was going to work, coming straight home, changing clothes, grabbing a quick bite to eat, some water and hitting the fields until dark. It was not all fun and games, there is a definite learning curve to using new equipment and especially when you have never put up hay before. I jammed the thing full a few times and had to dig it out by hand. I backed into a completed bale and caught the string and sucked it up and wrapped it around the guts of the baler. This took a while to get undone. I only sheared one more shear bolt the rest of the week. I would come inside at dark, cleanup and go to bed to wake up and do it again.
Since there are no microbalers in our area, I bought normal haying twine, but it will not fit inside the compartment designed to hold it. So we just set it between the baler and the quick hitch. It didn’t even need strapped down, it would just ride there and pull itself out. We went through ten rolls of baling twine.
One night was spectacular! I had jammed the baler for the third time and just called it quits. I was getting ready to head inside when I noticed the view, it does set things into perspective. It was a good way to end a frustrating day.
Tex finally healed himself and came out to the house on Thursday. We were only about 50 bales from completion and would need a spot to put the bales so we worked on lining one side of the barn with 2×6 boards so that the round bales would not touch the outer walls. I had plans on buying some pretty boards but at the rate we are burning through cash I opted to use some boards that we already had on hand. We used boards left over from building the bull enclosure. Probably a much better deal all around for everyone. We got ten feet into the air and decided to wait on installing the higher boards until we had stacked the hay up to the top board. This would then allow us to just stand on the hay pile and install them without trying to use them as ladders, hold on and then screw them in place. This does require some balance and dexterity and muscles which could be better utilized in stacking hay. Tex jumped onto the tractor and finished out the last of the hay while I ran to town . Slim had come out the day before and knocked down 90% of the grass in our front yard. This was a needed task and at the rate we keep Tex busy neither one of us were going to get to it.
I had Tex hook the hay mower back up and Thursday evening I opted to drive down and start haying down by the school house. Two passes and I heard some loud whine from the drum mower. Now I had just hit a hidden 2” pipe with the mower on the last pass. I discovered that I had ripped off all the blades from one of the drums. All of the bolts were missing! I even managed to find one of the blades. So now I am going to have to order new bolts and blades for the loaner mower. I also had to disconnect the PTO shaft from the mower and dig out all the loose grass that had wrapped around the head and was smoking from the friction. I did mention this is a loaner? I called the place this morning first thing and was told this is their busy season and to be patient they would get back to me. Well they did not get back to me today and I cannot cut any more fields for hay until I get the mower fixed. So tomorrow I will try and order the parts I need and we will see how long it takes them to get to me.
We ended up with 1050 bales that weigh about 45# each, so about 23.5 ton in 8 acres. I have about another 6 acres down by the school house to cut still. We will buy some alfalfa this year and plant two more fields this fall. I am pretty sure we are going to plant 7 acres of Sainfoin and then more grass fields. Our big push now is to pick up all those bales by hand!
Well Tex came out this morning and while we were eating breakfast “Slim” came out. She is Tex’s little sister and she has agreed to dig out the chicken coop and the barn and do a few odd chores this summer. I set her up with instructions on how to clean out coop, we found all the tools and I got her some bleach, a rag and a bucket for after it got cleaned out. Tex and I went out to the machine shed to attempt to get the micro baler hooked up. This proved difficult at best as the first PTO shaft was too long, so we added the quick connect to get three inches more away from the tractor. The PTO shaft just did not want to go on. We then had to change out the posts and adjust everything to get the dang thing lined up correctly. We also had to put in a quart of gear oil into the baler. I was a little surprised by this as the thing is brand new and has not been leaking at all. We managed to read the instructions a couple more times and drove up to the second field to try it out.
Tex went with me as we figured there would be a learning curve. This was a major misstatement as we managed to only make two bales in the first hour and could not get either one of them wrapped in twine. They were totally naked. We managed to shear off two shear bolts and discover that a pair of spring wire pliers are needed to correct this issue. I do not own a pair of said pliers so I did it by hand, which is never fun. I finally got three bales done correctly and Tex went off to work on the machine shed while I tried to figure it out.
Tex outsmarted himself as doubling the row widths caused a ton of problems. The rows are too wide and too much material is present. We would have been way better off had he not done it. It made baling it a lot harder. I spent 3 hours on the tractor and got 119 bales done. Two boxes of baling twine are not going to be enough. We are using a lot of twine. I managed to mess up two bales and had to lift the dump part manually twice. The second time I had to go get Tex, damn thing is just getting heavier and heavier.
Each bale is supposed to weigh around 50#, I went down to the machine shed to get Tex so I could show him how to bale and give him some tips to avoid issues. He was working with Slim and they had gotten 8 sheets of plywood up on the walls. I showed Slim a few more things I wanted done in the chicken coop and she set right to work. I had told her first thing this was only a one day job and she did it! She just dug in and did the job!! So nice and refreshing.
I ran back to town and got 10 gallons of diesel and 10 more rolls of twine so Tex will be able to hit it hard first thing at 0900 tomorrow. When I come home from work I will relieve him and go until dark. The race is on now to get it all done. It does not look like we already have almost 5 ton of hay baled. I think we are going to have over 1000 bales in just the first field only.