TREX deck progress made today

We had a lot of stuff going on today and were able to make some serious progress. Mr I need a Belt Bad came out and finished up the chicken coop. He got the back room vacuumed and all of the old poop out and moved the bedding around so that there is a bed of fresh pellets on the floor for the chickens to make a mess in. I also got rid of the grass seed that was stored in a bucket in the back room. I spread it all over the ram pasture as the mice had been making a mess in the room and eating the grass. Once I had it spread out on the ground the chickens started to eat it. No one understands it is supposed to stay there on the ground.

Mr Rainman came out at 0700 and we started setting up all of the tools to work on the front porch. By 0730 Mr Professional had shown up and we started in on the front deck. We ended up putting a couple of yards of gravel under the deck to keep down the dust and provide some drainage. Once that was done we started in on separating out TREX and figuring out what to do next. We started on installing the fascia. I had purchased this special tool and plugs so you could hide all of the screws. It was laborious but it turned out really nice and I only complained for an hour about the $1/screw price. It takes two people to install and move the TREX as it is incredibly flexible and it is possible to break it. We did not break any today but we had laid it all out on the South side of the house so the TREX was absorbing the sun on a 93 degree day and it was hot to the touch!! It made cutting and moving it difficult unless you were wearing gloves. I was the only one wearing gloves. Not for the heat, I took a chunk out of one finger yesterday with the impact driver and did not want to bleed on all the decking while we worked again, so I had gloves.

We did the stairs next and of course there was a bow in the middle of the stair. We managed to hide it with some creative spacing and it all turned out well. The stairs are all done now but there is a large dust spot at the bottom of the stairs. This is due to the bushes we removed and then the weeds we killed and then the continual beat down the area has received. This is causing a 1/4” of dust to be conveniently placed at the start of the stairs so all of that dirt can be tracked directly into the house. This is going to need to be addressed at some point soon.

Mr Professional and Mr Rainman are returning tomorrow to work on the deck while I am at the paying job. We only have 6.5 boards left for the outer edge and it will take 6 to finish it so there is no margin for error. I am wishing them well now. My reaction may be different tomorrow.

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.

The tractor is broken again

This morning the plan was to get Mr I Need a Belt Bad to finish the lawn and kill some more weeds in the garden. While he was doing that I was going to get some more field work done. I got him started in on the lawn and took the side by side up to spray East side of field #2. I have what I believe to be a type of hairy vetch that is proving hard to kill. Mostly because it does respond to the spray but it grows so fast that it keeps snapping back from getting sprayed! I sprayed out another 50 gallons. The grass is pretty tall in places but has not headed out yet so I think I can wait another 1-2 weeks before I cut it. Once the spray was done, I opted to grab the tractor and cut the West side of #2 for hay. I had about two acres cut and was almost done when the tractor refused to steer. I jumped down and looked at the steering mechanism. The picture shows that a cast iron piece is broken! This is a new broken piece and on the left side this time. They just fixed the right side wheel bearing last week. So the plan to turn the hay I cut yesterday is on hold. I need the tractor to work! After a brief consult with the wife where she tells me its okay to buy a new tractor. I wanted to hold out for two more years, tomorrow I will be getting quotes on a new tractor and get the broken piece overnighted so we can continue to put up hay. The real question will be can they get me a new tractor in under two weeks?

Mr I Need a Belt Bad dug thistles out of the garden then Mr Professional got him hooked up with the five gallon back sprayer and he walked along the driveway and sprayed the stray grass stalks. He did this a couple of times. Annmarie had him help her plant some new flower ground cover under the old metal harrow rake. Next week he will get to finish weeding the garden, spraying the grass in the planter garden and start weeding the flower rock garden. He is going to whip our yard into shape this summer. We got some more clover seed for him to plant on the front hillside also.

It always seems like something breaks and stops us from haying! Here is to hoping we can get it fixed quickly and not lose any hay.

Haying season has begun!

I brought the tractor home this week from its repairs. It has the back hydraulic takeoff connectors repaired, a hydraulic leak under the tractor and the front wheel bearing seal all fixed. It is no longer pouring out oil from multiple locations on the tractor! They even power washed all the grease off of it. I wanted to drive the tractor home via the back roads and not use the trailer, it would have taken about 90 minutes to get home. Annmarie told me to just take the trailer! I would have needed a ride to drop me off and had to make a special trip to town instead of just driving the pickup to work. I used the trailer.

One of our cows had another calf so 4/6 have now had calves. Unfortunately they are taking their time. So next weekend we are going to herd them all up to the barn and sort them so the four babies can be tagged and banded. We will have to get the other two later. I don’t want to have to tag and band a 8 week old calf. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was excited to hear that we would be working cows next week, we will see how excited he is after he has to help catch and hold them down.

Mr Professional came out yesterday and got the sickle bar mower attached to the tractor. I had to work all week so no weeds got sprayed. I am on a new drug regimen for my post covid pericarditis. It is back to tearing up my gut and the constant chest pressure is starting to wear me down again. I have been instructed by multiple parties that I am to take it easy. So I have added napping to my schedule and only get to do a few light things in the morning on the days I am not working. I hate it. But I am tired and I want to get better and limiting my activities will help.

Today Mr I Need a Belt Bad came out and we set him on the yard first thing. Our front hillside has sprouted with cheat grass and it needed to be mowed. We have some clover coming in and have vowed to not use any herbicide on it in an effort to get it established. So we had him mow and bag all the cheat grass with the mower on the low setting. It did not disturb the clover and it decimated the cheat grass. He had one instruction when I set him up with the mower, do not hit the black hose connecting the sprinklers! That is actually two directives as he was instructed to mow the hillside and not hit the black pipe. I had to use a wire wheel to clean off the sickle bar mower goop so the grass slid over it and was using the grinder when he came over to tell me that he had hit the black pipe!! He had one job! I grumbled and told him to finish mowing and we would fix the pipe later. He was back five minutes later showing me a four foot chunk of pipe he hit that was not connected to anything. I had removed it a couple of weeks ago as it was not needed and had just tossed it to the side. So even though he violated the rule, no hitting of the black pipe he maintained the intent which was to not interrupt our watering capability.

He then got set up with the weed eater, a new experience for him, and yes he had goggles and hearing protection. He did not like the weed eater as much, it is heavy, you have to use a chest harness and it does wear on your arms. He ended up mowing about half the front yard and will finish the rest tomorrow. He should even have some time to work on the garden also. Mr Professional came out and pulled the hay rake out, sickle cut the orchard and worked on weeds. He is also working on getting the chain saw put back together. We need to do some creative repair to the plastic handle. I am picking up a couple of packages of JB weld to create a fix.

I mowed the hay today with the sickle mower. I got about four acres cut. I have maybe another two in one field but it can wait a week and the #1 field can wait at least another two weeks. We are going to try and spread out the cutting so we can get it baled in between and it won’t get too dry like it did last year. I suspect we will be cutting the neighbor’s field mid to late week and starting in on it also. The goal is to get 35-40 ton in the barn, shed, buildings. I still have about 12-14 large bales left over from last year. I use two per week when it is bare and no feed available. We will have to hook up the trailer to the tractor to feed out the small bales. I love the way the grass lays down when you cut it and the smell. It is very relaxing.