Staycation started

Well it’s official, I am on vacation at home for the next 17 days. I had to take the first batch of cows in on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Annmarie and I had a dinner to attend Thursday evening. So I was outside in the dark trying to move animals. We have it set up now so you can push animals through the orchard then through our front yard into the corral. This is infinitely more preferable to just letting them out into the area surrounding our houses. They can run all over and with the buildings and piles of stuff all around it makes herding them very difficult.

The two new alpaca were still in the orchard so I ”let” them out. This sounds easy but they did not want to go out the gate and kept running past the open gate. I did this several times then went out the open gate and tried to drive two of our main herd alpacas into the orchard. This was another abysmal failure. I had a head lamp on and I had a bright flash light that I would shine on the gate opening. I went back into the orchard muttering to the alpaca that they needed to comply or else I was going to have to go get the border collie, Mouse. They have not been exposed to the dogs except through the fence and I did want the conditions to be better before relationships get established. Eventually, with running back and forth I managed to get them to go through the gate, then latched it. I went down to pasture #5a which borders the orchard, latched the gate that goes out into the main grazing area and opened the gate into the orchard. The cows usually come in at night and hang out near my mother-in-law’s house and they were so I did not have to go all the way down to the school house and try and run them back. Again, the cows did not want to go through the gate. The green tag cow kept breaking and running behind me. This reminded me of why we are getting rid of her, she is so painful to deal with on multiple levels. After much effort on my part I was able to get the cows into the orchard. There was no way I was going to get them through the four foot gate, into our front yard then into the corral alone. I opted to go get some help that is used to my working animals language. Mouse, came out with me! It is hard to see a black and white border collie in the dark so we have some collar hanging bobs that strobe white. We used to use them when letting the dogs out to potty at night. They would pretend they could not hear us because we could not see them. The lights stopped that nonsense. I found one that still worked and put it on Mouse. This way I could see where the dog was and only had to worry about finding the cows with the flashlight. It was rough going initially. Mouse still thinks a problem should be dealt with head on hence his propensity for straight lines. Eventually with enough yelling and trial and error we established an effective communication method that allowed us both to kinda get what we wanted. Once we had the cows into the corral area they ran back behind the barn. Unfortunately, all of our cows happened to be in the barn lot and everyone started raising a ruckus and I was afraid the four would go through the fence to join the herd. Mouse and I managed to dissuade this desire and got them locked into the corral area. Now when I came out in the morning and backed the trailer up to the corral the cows can just be encouraged to load up.

The plan worked! I had no trouble getting the cows loaded and taken in to the abbotoir. That was the first four, I will take the last three in for their final destination in a couple of weeks. This is good because yesterday morning I went to pull the pickup over to the flat bed trailer and the pickup would not start, totally dead! Even though I had all the spare parts and tools with me on our Salem trip in case we got stranded this would have been bad. The last time I was stranded with Annmarie in the vehicle we bought a new pickup. She doesn’t like hanging out on the roadside. The pickup just needs some TLC which it will get as soon as I drop off the last three. Mr Professional got the new battery connection installed, unfortunately the old one was glued on and it took some extra tools to get it off the battery terminal without injuring the battery. I drove right over and we hooked up the flatbed trailer. While he worked on the battery I worked to clean up the seeder/fertilizer thrower. I used wire brush grinder to remove and smooth out all of the rust. I had to clean and adjust the window doors and scrape off the old caked on grease. I ended up breaking off one of the grease zerks trying to tighten it and had to use an easy out tool to remove it. Mr Professional put it on the tractor and greased it all up while I was off buying farm supplies.

We had a long discussion about needed supplies and since the price of fuel, spray, fertilizer and seed has jumped dramatically this last three weeks we felt it was best to get it all now. I have to say that I had plans to hold off on some of these items as I was going to purchase them over the entire year. I went to Pendleton and bought railroad ties (entire bundle)- they should be out of them by the end of this week. I bought the very last roll of smooth wire in the store. I bought some woven wire, I only needed one roll but bought two more just in case. I bought enough T posts to redo the fence down by four corners. The gate price had jumped over 20% already so I bought that also. We looked at chemicals to spray on the farm and I picked up the rest I would need for the whole year. I got the tighteners needed for the new fence on four corners. Today I just gave up and bought the ballast box I need for the kubota when using the forks. I also bought another quick hitch category 1 hitch for the Kubota. I bought a chain holder for the tractor also and some bushings for the category one hitch that lets me get away from the pins. I got a speed handle for the Kubota also, they are super nice and the one on the Mistress has been amazing. I just ordered all the lights for the machine shed. Luckily, I already ordered the parts for the baler and now just need to install them.

Unfortunately, this dramatic rise in price of everything means we will be doing a bunch of maintenance on all the equipment. We are going to rewire the flat bed trailer and the horse trailer. I purchased those supplies this weekend also. The fuel tank has been emptied so now I can get it filled with diesel, if only I had done it three weeks ago…

Mr Professional went out and spread about 35# of grass seed onto a few thin spots on field #1. We had a nice light rain last night 8/100” so the seed should be wet and now we just need some warm weather. I need about 5-7 days with no rain and I can plant the last 2 acre field with grass seed and the planting will be done until fall.

I have all the stuff to strip and stain the upstairs doors. But I need to empty off the breeze porch first, tomorrow the child and I will be going through the entire house and removing the giveaway. We may even add to the giveaway pile! My goal is to thin everything pretty hard. I went through two kitchen cupboards today and removed a pile of stuff.

Annmarie found the plans for our future outdoor dining area. We just need to find a used grain bin for sale to tear down and use the components. We also looked at my retirement projects using a welder and a lot of horse shoes! Currently, I think I may be able to make the chicken.

Catch up

There was some rain last week and the grass is taking advantage of it. If you stare at the picture long enough you will see some green covering starting to happen on field #3. The cows had been going up through the freshly planted fields as they were dry and there was more grass up above for them to eat. When I noticed this new growth this week I locked the cows into field #4 and the barn lot only. I started to feed the cows hay now. I need this grass to get well established so that next year we can get as much hay as possible and have as much grazing land.

It has been a long week. I had some help early on in the week, Mr Rainman came out to do a few things while I did the paying job. He worked on finishing the harrow work in field #4 then planted dryland grass seed. I want to plant sections of fields where the animals are but need to keep them off of the area while we get the grass established. We want to get the grass growing and the fences in place so we can install an irrigation system. We have been looking at various solutions and need something that is doable when we are 70 years old. We have found an underground system that uses a mainline then has a soft pipe connection to the mainline and a plug in ground level connector. You just plug in the sprinkler head and it works, the best part is the connectors are off to the side and made of flexible pipe so they account for vehicles and animals stepping on them without breaking any pipe. This is the same reason to subdivide the fields. As we run into very dry summers we need to be able to keep the animals off of certain areas to enforce a rotation so that the grass has a chance to snap back. We are looking at selling all of our aluminum pipe to fund the majority of our system. This is in our two year plan, but next year our big expense is gutters for the front of the house and ice breakers for the roof. Again, looking at that retirement need!

I had him cut back our trumpet vine next to the house as the wind had been blowing and it was scratching on the metal roof. He did this the day of a 40mph+ wind storm, it was so bad Annmarie had me send him home.

I also had him trim the trumpet vine growing next to the old house as this had not been done for about seven years and the house was getting rubbed on. We had a huge windstorm today and there was absolutely no sound from anything rubbing on either house. Big win and may cause us to not even have to trim anything next year.

He also picked up all of the branches from our front yard one morning after a wind storm. There were branches everywhere. We usually ignore the leaves and if they get deep enough in the yard then I just let the sheep into the front yard and they eat the leaves. He then went out and pulled a disc around the back half of field #5 (#5b, as I am not going to keep renumbering fields when they get split). That section has a 3-4 foot drop off between levels and needs to be knocked down some to make it safe to drive on. It is not safe to drive the tractor on the drop off unless you are going up or down, no sideways driving will happen unless you want to roll the tractor onto its side.

Friday we were fortunate to have 0.82” of rain fall throughout most of the day, this doesn’t sound like much but its 6.8% of our annual rainfall of 12”. I looked it up we get between 12”-13.5” annually, depends on where you look. This was much needed rain, and if the temperature will stay above freezing and get above 50 F during the day I may get some growth on my fields.

Saturday I spent the morning being lazy, this is not a common occurrence at our house but it does occasionally happen. I then went out and used the arena groomer on field #5b. I spent about four hours going around in circles and trying to knock down the 3-4’ drop off, so when we were driving out here with the tractor we did not have to worry about tipping the tractor over no matter how we drove. It is now safe to drive sideways the length of the drop off. It took a lot of going around in circles to smooth out the field and drop off. I am always amazed at how not flat a field can be that looks pretty smooth from a distance but when you get into it you notice the little irregularities. This should make it pretty easy to cut and bale in the late spring. I keep forgetting how much rougher the little John Deere tractor is to ride around in. I felt pretty beat up after my four hours and definitely wore my seat belt the entire time. Ithen took the arena groomer off and put the post hole auger on the tractor. My top three point adjusting bar is broken on the little tractor. I need a new one, it is not turning any more. Once I got the three point auger on I realized I could not hook up the pto shaft as it was rusted on the auger! I drove to the machine shed, parked under cover and used 1/4 bottle of spray lubricant onto the shaft and then let it soak in repeatedly. Once I get the thing freed, if needed I will chain it to the other tractor and pull it apart, then I will clean up the inside shaft, use some lithium grease and put it all back together. I was really just trying to get the auger on the tractor so I can weld on a T shaped 8” holder onto the auger so I can stick 50-150# worth of tractor weight onto the arm near the auger. Sometimes, you just need a little weight on the end to make it work better as I cannot get any significant downward pressure with my 3 point hitch. The hitch won’t even notice the extra 150#. I figured this would help me in drilling holes and speeding up work. I will have to be careful to not let it cut too fast or I will be changing out the shear bolts all the time, but this will be easy to do.

I did not get to do the welding as we had a huge wind storm on Sunday! I fed the sheep and horse then went to get the Kubota tractor with pallet forks to feed the cows in the upper barn lot. The problem is the wind is 50mph and it started to rain again. The rain felt like hail due to the wind, I had to keep checking it as I was sure little ice balls were pelting me nonstop but no, just liquid water at high velocity. The Kubota has been moving the big bails fairly easily, I did not count on that 0.86” of accumulated rain in the last three days adding a bunch of weight to the bale! I had to drive the tractor in 4wd due to only the front two tires and one rear tire touching the ground the entire time. Needless to say, the bale was just barely above the ground and kept touching the ground so the tractor could stay on three tires with one rear wheel about 1” off the ground. I need to prioritize getting a quick hitch for the Kubota and converting one of the 50 gallon drums into a weight that I can back up to and drive off with when using the pallet forks. I have one full of horseshoes and it weighs around 800#. I know this because that is the max weight on my John Deere bucket and its all it can do to lift it. This is going to become a priority. I did notice that the Kubota tractor has an all steel foot deck with raised holes that cleans the mud off of my boots and lets me wash down the deck easily, I had to keep my hat tilted down to keep the rain from pelting my face and I may also need a new pair of muck boots as mine are pretty beat up but still waterproof so I will most likely hold off until they leak.

Closing in on planting

It is getting cold, yesterday I thought it was cutting and was chilly until the sun came out. Today, I had to come back into the house after feeding the cows and get a neck warmer. It was the only way to keep the wind from blowing down my neck and shirt. I was still very cold and spent 30 minutes in the shower after I got done warming myself up. I need to break out the Overalls if I am going to sit on the tractor for hours at a time in this weather. I still have about 1/2 acre in field four to plant and to put away all the yard tools and roll up all the water hoses. All the garden and drip lines have been disconnected and blown out so they are ready for winter.

I have been trying to get the last of the grass seeding done. Unfortunately, this is a longer process than I had envisioned. I can do about 3 acres a day, that is it. This is not exactly a rapid process. The other part is that I was working on our seven acre plot and it has a lot of rocks. A lot less rocks after Mr Rainman picked them but the cultivator kept bringing rocks up out of the ground. This meant after I make the trip around again I had to disengage the PTO, jump off, pickup rocks and toss them into the bucket and then engage PTO and go again. I ended up picking four buckets worth of rock over the three days. I did not see a single deer in three days. What I saw a lot of were quail! We have an amazing amount of quail on the farm. We are hoping to thin out the pigeons and maybe some doves as we have about 100 of those also. They are competing with the quail for food. We may have to put out some bird feed blocks this winter for the quail.

Planting continues

Mr Rainman came out this morning to help, upon arrival he announced he did not feel well. So we moved two pieces of furniture out of the house and then went to the barn to tag and band lambs. The oldest lambs were 6 weeks old and pretty dang big for that age. Annmarie had been telling me for a while to get them banded but I was holding out for more lambs. At the rate they are having babies its going to take four months again. It is a dang good thing we got another ram, our old one may be nice but he is slow. So we pushed the sheep and lambs into the barn, watched the sheep so we knew who belonged to whomever. I had a new occurrence that has not happened in the last 287 boy lambs we have had, one of the lambs had TWO SCROTUM, strange but solved by putting one testicle in each one and banding them both. We will be watching our old ram, he may have to be taken out of the equation permanently. Mr Rainman helped me unload the end table at my mothers and then proceeded to go home and sleep all day, I suspect the dreaded mancold. It is a downer.

I put all the tools I needed, seed and fuel into the Kubota and drove up to the little John Deere tractor. I could not get it to start. We had this problem last week, the neutral indicator is not working correctly therefore the engine doesn’t start. I filled the tractor with fuel, most of it went on me, and my long sleeve shirt then tried to start it for over ten minutes with no luck. I then used the Kubota to pull off the broken cultivator/seeder and got it onto the Kubota. I also repaired the cultivator/seeder. This took an hour and then I was finally ready to seed. I spent the rest of the day seeding. I have all of field #2 completed. I have half of field #3 planted. So in total I have about 7 acres planted so far. I have 10 more acres to plant, but am going to run out of seed. Hopefully, my seed order comes in tomorrow. Planting is a whole lot of circles and circles and more circles.

I need to get new diesel cans so I can quit wearing fuel and pouring it all over the tractor. I tried to replace the nozzle but the new one does not work very well and it still leaks. I did discover today that the PTO safety is still engaged on the new tractor. I jumped off to look at the grain bin and the tractor died because the PTO was engaged. I have it overridden on my old little tractor and totally forgot about it. I am hoping to have everything planted by this upcoming weekend.

Winter is coming

It was time I use that fancy welder I purchased last year to actually make something. It has been almost two years since I took the welding class so I had to practice and get up to speed on a few things. I love my new welding hood, I especially love the grinding setting on the glass so it doesn’t darken when you are using the grinder. The only real problem with this is you have to remember to turn it to weld before you set that first arc or it is very bright! I only did that once this time. I had to replace the upright square tubing for the seeder aperture controller. A couple of years ago I kinked it by lifting it into the back of the tractor. It vibrated in half yesterday and needed to be repaired ASAP as I was getting ready to plant all weekend. I went to the local scrap/fabrication yard and picked up 2’ of 1.25” square thick walled tubing for $10. While I was there I scored some more large bale hay! A true miracle in this year of low hay yields. I will be picking up the hay as soon as I get the grass seed planted. I went home, ground the old part apart, prepped the tubing and got the welder to work! I was able to weld it, I still need more practice, I burned through the pipe on one side and then had to go back and fill it in. I only had rust paint available, I tried black first but the nozzle was plugged.

Mr Rainman has been coming out for the last three days and prepping fields. I had visions of spending this weekend planting and I think it is going to happen. I was able to plant about 1.5 acres of Triticale today and one acre of grass. I have been planting the difficult areas first. It took me most of the day to get the cultivator dialed in and working the way I want it to. I should have the aperture opening adjusted for grass by tomorrow. Once I have that in place then Mr Rainman can plant all day Monday and Tuesday. I will have to pick it up again on Wednesday. My seed order from PGG did not come in yet, I had some leftover (double recommended #) and I purchased some more locally. I want to use the PGG grass on the large 7 acre field out by the road. The weather channel says it is going to freeze this week. The planted fields done with the cultivator look good.

The sheep are just not with the plan. We should be having lambs dropping out everywhere and we have had one set of twins just born in the last two weeks. Mr Rainman and I will tag and band them all in the morning. They are just eating hay and doing nothing most of the time.

Our local wheat fields were planted last weekend with Club wheat. The Club variety seems to do well in our soil and it is fetching a very nice price.

The plumbing hole down at the mother in law’s house is covered. I just need to go down and finish cleaning up around the area.

The Kubota tractor got its first oil change today, it already has 140 hours on it! Mr Rainman worked on smoothing out the fields and removing organic matter while I used the green tractor to plant grass seeds. I managed to break off a bolt that I had tightened yesterday and then I proceeded to break the angle adjuster on the seed hopper. I stripped the threads, I took it off to try and get it back together and realized that I could have moved it an inch forward by changing bolt hole, I didn’t know I could do that. When the new one comes I will hook it up correctly for the type of use it sees on the farm.

The front porch still needs those last boards installed, I just picked up the column trim this week and the gates need to be hung to keep all four legged critters off of our deck. The quail are all over the farm. Saying there are over 200 is no exaggeration. I am hoping the winter is perfect and the quail all make it through. We could have a real bunch of them by next year.