Left out in the heat

I spent Thursday on the tractor going in circles making little bales of hay for eight hours in field number one. That seven acres seems to take days to bale due to the shear volume of grass that was produced this year. At only 40# a round bale it takes 50 bales to make a ton and there is around 20 ton out in this field alone. We are counting bales as they come out of the field so we will know when the field is empty how many ton of hay were produced. The bale counter has a lot of false positives as it counts every time the dump opens up even if a bale is not discharged. I do wear hearing protection but both of us had been wearing some type of ear bud/in ear speakers to listen to music while baling. This is problematic as the baler has a siren to tell you when it is full and we cannot hear it. You also cannot hear when something changes with the equipment. You can hear most breaks or soon to be broken issues but not while wearing headphones. So instead we now have a Dewalt radio bungee corded between the roll bars on the tractor, blasting music and we wear ear muff sound protectors. This makes it much easier to hear any changes with the equipment. I know this sounds counterintuitive but it really does work!

Mr Professional came out and did an oil and filter change on the John Deere tractor. I need a strap wrench for the fuel filter before it can be changed. I have ordered this already and it should be here by next week. I had to stop several times while bailing and make adjustments to the baler. It keeps needing adjustments as the temperature outside continues to rise. Once I got the chain adjusted I had to adjust the rear hatch catching mechanism. Also the discharge spring stop weld broke so I had to beat down the metal tab three times. This has been welded with some extra angle iron added to take the continuous pounding every time a bale is discharged. We need more tools in our tool bag. We need a full set of metric wrenches, not just the 15 mm and 10 mm wrenches. Plus, I noticed a couple of holes in our tool bag, so a new tool bag is probably also in the works. The wheat field is starting to turn. They won’t be able to harvest till the end of July this year. Harvest will probably be 3-5 weeks later than normal for us.

I was going to call it a day when Mr Professional said he got someone to come out and buck hay bales with me. This sounded like a great idea so I came in and fired up the pickup and we went out to pick up bales. We picked up 100 bales (2 ton) out of field two and came into the barn lot. Unfortunately, we filled the easy spots last time and that meant all of these bales needed to go to the top of the pile. We had 10 of the 100 bales into the barn when he gets a phone call and has to leave. I ended up moving about three ton of hay farther up into the barn and then unloaded the two ton from the trailer into the barn. I was very tired by the time I was done. Since I missed dinner and Annmarie had gone into town to do some work, they had left me dinner on the stove, Mashed potatoes and meatloaf! Annmarie always adds lots of stuff to the meatloaf so the vegetables are hidden inside of it, mostly carrots and onions. I zapped the potatoes in the microwave and then doused the meatloaf in a thick layer of real ketchup. Mind you I had stripped down in the laundry room to my tighty whiteys and needed the shower but it was nine pm and my last meal was at 7 am. I was hungry. So I ate dinner on the front porch of the house in my underwear while I watched the sun go down. It was a very spectacular dinner.

I had to order more diesel. This time instead of ordering 100 gallons I just told them to fill both sides of the tank to the top and we would go from there. I think its a 150 gallon tank. The propane company sent us our annual contract, we used 346 gallons of propane last year. Interesting enough, they set our usage at 800 gallons next year therefore making our monthly contribution double what it would have been. I sure hope the price doesn’t double or our consumption double. Every since we had the coolant leak repaired our propane usage is about half of what it used to be, which is why I think they are budgeting for 800, as I suspect our usage was that high before the repair.

I was in bed trying to go to sleep over the crying puppy (we are crate training her) and the noisy frogs when Mr Professional called to say someone just pulled up to the field with a pickup, a trailer and a loader and two people were out in the hay field with headlamps on. I ended up getting out of bed, putting on my wild west attire and headed out to the field. Before I could get out there he calls back to say its the bee people. They were adding hives to the ones they already have in the neighbor’s fields. They had forgotten exactly which field but had the right location. It was directly across the road from where they were looking. I was back in bed and asleep by midnight.

Haying and illness do not mix.

I spent most of the week being ill. I of course handled this with my normal male approach to illness, lots of complaining and whining occurred. I have not had my nose run that much in a couple of decades, I was pretty sure I was going to get dehydrated from fluid loss via my nose. I persevered and managed to come through whole on the other end of this horrible occurrence. The first night I tried to sleep downstairs the frogs/toads were making a ruckus. I mean they are incredibly loud. They are so annoying that Gizmo keeps running over to the rock pile to find them to silence them. So far he has had zero luck but after that first night I was starting to cheer for him. The next evening while we were outside pottying the puppy the noise started up again. Since I was once again going to sleep downstairs I went over to see about maybe silencing the infernal sound so I could get some sleep. I found both frogs, one each in these two water holding containers that got filled up with all of the rain we had last month. I could hardly believe that a frog smaller than a half dollar could make that much noise! I left them alone and went inside to bed and just put a pillow over my head. I fell asleep fairly quickly, being sick helped that.

Annmarie added another super to the bee hive! The bees are still alive and seem to be doing well. Annmarie got her bee suit on and went out and handled them without getting stung. She was even brave enough to pull the camera out of her pocket with no glove on and take some pictures. We recognize they are not violent and you can do all of the hive care with no gloves and no hood. I am not sure that we will ever get there but we do inherently understand it is possible, just saying. They built up some extra comb that Annmarie will have to knock down. She says its from not spacing the frames evenly. We suspect we may not get any honey this year, depending on how things go but if we can keep the bees alive that will be our primary goal.

I did have to go out and do some tractor work. Mr Professional has been coming out and working in the evenings and nights. The John Deere tractor lights were not working. I ended up going out and cutting off the rear tail lights as they were broken and probably shorting out power. I verified all the fuses were good and then then looked at the aftermarket assembly pieces. The inline fuse was not getting power so I had to change out the control box and tear down the tape job to ensure the power connection was secure. It was. In the end the control box and the external light switch were both bad and luckily I had replacements on hand in the ”light bin”. Creating two racks of spare parts for each piece of equipment has been a great help since everything takes days to get here from some far away place.

The quail are everywhere! They have paired up and are all over the farm. I have not spotted any babies yet, but they grow up quickly so they are easy to miss.

Haying purgatory

Saturday was the day of the first hay roundup. Mr Tex had agreed to come out and help buck hay. He doesn’t like working in the heat so he wanted to start at 0600. This is way too early for Mr Professional so Annmarie agreed to drive the pickup and trailer around in circles while we tossed bales onto the trailer. We had to make a plan as there were some bales that had cheat grass in them. Three of the fields look pretty good with very little cheat grass. We decided to use the cheat grass contaminated bales to line the dirt floor of the lamb shed, the triticale could then go on top of it and we would not waste any of it. The triticale we will feed to the cows and the bull in alcatraz. We ended up getting almost 3 ton off of about 3/4 acre in the triangle scab patch we planted the 2 year old leftover triticale seeds in, using a grass seed dispersing cultivator. The quail are everywhere! They are in pairs all up and down the fields, every time we went down the road we spotted several pair.

We were able to get 100 bales per load onto the trailer and pickup. That is two ton per trip. The road alongside the wheat field is the quickest route out to the fields but it slants to toward the downhill side and has one bad spot that was causing the tractors to slide off of the road during all the mud creating rains. I have been slowly trying to flatten that section of road out and it is better but it is not wide enough so the trailer kept slipping off the road and getting dragged sideways for about 50 feet until we could get past that section. It only slid two feet downhill but it is disconcerting when you are looking in your side mirror and see it slide down and stay on the low side. We only dumped hay off once and then only lost six bales. Annmarie helped us unload in the barn. Having an extra person was great once we started having to stack higher than we could reach. I messed up and started to stack the far closest corner up first. I always do the farthest corner first. Its easier and this year I messed it up so now the bales have to be moved an extra 8-16 feet. The temperature was only in the low 80s F. I made sure to drink lots of water but it was hot! We tried to geet the puppy to go with us but she did not like the noise of the pickup so we left her in the yard. She spent most of the day sleeping on the front porch of the house.

We picked up 400 bales and then Mr Tex wanted to take a lunch. He went home, and we had minimart chicken strips and then I laid out on the front lawn and took a nap. I was anticipating the second round of hay bales to be less pleasant than the first 400. My arms were starting to ache but not my shoulders yet. We did another 100 bales then Sarah came home and volunteered to come out and help with hay. We of course allowed this then went back for our last 100 of the day as I was super tired already. The pickup and trailer started to sink into a soft section of the field and four wheel drive was necessary to get out of the spot. The last 100 bales into the barn sucked. We were all tired. After Mr Tex tossed his hay hook with the bale for the fourth time and fell off the trailer once it was fairly evident that even he was tired.

Mr Professional came out and blew out the John Deere radiator, I had forgotten to put the prescreen in so it had a lot more chaff in there than normal. He filled it and checked oil and added oil, both tractors need an oil change so I will be buying filters and getting the oil so we have it on hand. He then went out to bale more hay, therefore adding to the amount that needed to be picked up.

We ended up picking up 600 bales, 12 ton of hay and getting it in the barn for the animals for winter. We need to have both bays in the barn for the sheep to get through the winter so I would say we are have about 40% of the hay we need for winter already.

As soon as we were done I spread out on the front lawn to cool off. I just laid there for 30 minutes attempting to get cooled down. I shared some ice water with the puppy as every time I put the cup down she would shove her entire face into the cup so she could play with the ice cubes. Eventually it was my turn in the shower. I was in bed early and did not feel the greatest. The next day has begun and I still don’t feel that great. My muscles are not in that bad of shape but the headache and runny nose are not going away. So it will be a lighter day today.

The amount of hay is amazing. The rain was annoying and I will need to move a bunch of dirt and create a berm at the beginning of field 1 to prevent the field from being flooded but boy the grass sure liked the bottomless water glass. There is a distressing amount of hay to be cut and baled and picked up out of the fields.

Haying during the week

Mr Professional came out during the week and worked on equipment and kept haying. We managed to break both sickle bars, there are two special round head bolts that snap fairly easily. I had to call for parts for the new sickle bar and realized that it also was made in Italy! This did not bode well for us but it turns out they had three bolts on hand and could overnight them to the parts store. I had them order two more anyways so we would have spares on hand. I will need to create a new parts bin for the new sickle bar. Having a bin for every piece of equipment is very handy for keeping track of all of the spare parts. I would come home from work, change clothes and jump on a piece of equipment until dark. I could get in 5-6 hours of tractor work doing that. We had some trouble with moisture still as the heat had not picked up yet and the ground was still fairly wet. This caused the baler to jam on a fairly regular basis. We quit picking up so low to the ground and just caught the tops of the rows, this worked well but did leave a couple of inches of cut grass on the ground. There was nothing to do about that as the grass did not cut smoothly to the ground as it was still fairly wet. A mower/conditioner might fix this problem but when the grass is four feet tall I am unsure how well it would carve through the mass of grass.

Every evening I got to watch the quail! Honestly, they are one of my favorite birds. They are curious, vocal and beautiful. We hear them every day all over the farm. At dusk every evening one of the resident owls would come out and start swooping down into the field and catching rodents. They waited until it was almost dark before the hunting started. I have not seen a single deer or turkey this week while out working the fields nor have I seen a pheasant.

I was super tired and have been sleeping downstairs. I get the horrible twitches when I push myself and keep Annmarie awake at night. We have several toads that now live around the house and one has taken up residence under our front porch. It is so annoying that Gizmo, our Brussel griffin dog, has taken to hunting it when the racket commences. I was afraid the noise would keep me awake it was so loud but exhaustion won out and I just fell asleep. We keep telling Gizmo that he really does not want to catch the toad, it would not be healthy for him. I messaged Mr I need a belt bad to see if he wanted to come out and help buck hay but this is the third request I have submitted to him for summer labor and he is not thinking he wants to return to the farm. It is not easy to find a young person who wants to weed, mow, weed eat, dig out ditch and dig out the barn for a summer job. Honestly its only two days a week, maybe three but it is near impossible to find someone. The sheep have been doing all of our yard mowing this year except for the two times we got it mowed. We are still on the lookout for some summer yard assistance.

Haying for real now

It is officially haying season. I know this because I work from sunup to sundown during haying season. As soon as I get off work in the afternoon I get onto a tractor and go until dark. We had a couple of issues today. Mr Professional was going to use the Kubota and the new sickle bar mower to cut hay but it broke. One asks how does a new piece of equipment break? I would say very easily. We will be using locktite on most of the bolts on the sickle bars. Also, who knew but the new 5 foot sickle bar mower is made in Italy also! I had to download the manual and find the part, the rounded head bolt that kept breaking on our other sickle bar. I found the right part number and called the parts store. I requested five bolts and five nuts. The dealer for these mowers only had three bolts available so they are getting overnighted and we should have them in a couple of days. They are still going to order me two more but those should take 2-3 weeks.

We are going to have to start up another plastic bin of parts for the new mower. Every piece of equipment has a bin now and extra parts are stored in that bin. It makes it a lot less confusing when you know, at least, that the parts do go to that single machine. Mr Professional got about 1/3 of field one cut. Field one has some very fine grass and is drying out quite nicely. The only real problem is it got flooded so there is dirt about 12 inches up on the stalks. So the mower blade is cutting through a lot of dirt. The grass is incredibly tall and thick.

I went up to inspect how much was done by driving up the Mistress with the hay rake on it. I turned a little hay then decided that I needed to row up the hay I had put down on the ground yesterday. One might think that is too early but it is just cut flat and laid down, no rowing at all. The ground is so moist that when I rowed it you could see how much better the hay was going to dry and the ground could dry. It is amazing how wet the ground is still.

I got everything I cut yesterday turned and up into rows. It is supposed to get into the high 80s tomorrow so I am hoping that the hay really starts to dry out. The quail are amazing and everywhere! I must have seen 10 pair of quail running around on my drive out to the field. I hope the rain does not interfere with their egg production because if we have another banner quail baby year we are going to easily break the 300 quail mark on the farm. We think the quail can sustain about 4-500 birds in their society if we feed them through the winter. Time will tell.