Planting done!

It has been a pretty good week. Annmarie and I went out to get the sheep on Wednesday evening. We were headed out to the upper pasture when Annmarie spotted this alpaca with an injured eye. It was hard to look at from twelve feet away but it looked injured and had some blood on his face. I thought the eye might be encased in a scab and blinding him. Since I had just come home from work and we were only going to walk up and push the sheep back to the barn lot I had not bothered changing clothes. Knowing the best way to see if the alpaca was blind was to sneak up on his potentially blind side. This worked amazingly well, I got right next to him, but what if he smells you? The solution is to just grab him around the neck suddenly with no warning whatsoever. One would think I would have learned by now, but the rule is once you grab you don’t let go, no matter what! If you let go the there will be no touching that animal for the rest of the day. I held on despite getting tossed around and ending up on the ground. I managed to put a wrestler hold on his neck and get on top of him for the pin! Annmarie had to hold his hips while I looked at his eye, yep scabbed over, could not see the eye. We are going to just watch him. He is one of our older animals and pinning him into a pen for repeated daily treatments when he doesn’t have much life left doesn’t seem like a quality of life he would appreciate. We don’t do the vet for the alpaca, sheep, or cows. The history precluding this incident is he has been on the war path and chasing and beating up other alpaca all week before the injury. We are not sure if he got kicked or ran into something. He was literally chasing victims all over the farm earlier in the week. Annmarie found my phone and all the pens I scattered all over the ground during the takedown event.

I was finally able to get some triticale seed 400#. I could not get it locally in 50# bags and I don’t need a 2000# tote full of triticale seed. I ended up getting it out of Walla Walla through Nutrien Ag Solutions. They delivered it to the house as there is an employee who lives in the area nearby. I got this done Wednesday evening so I would be all ready to go on Friday when I started to plant the triticale. I have three small fields that need triticale, the grass has been planted. There are two patches up on the hillside that need grass planting still but they will have to wait until after the triticale is planted. I don’t want to break the seeder on the hillside while planting experimental test plots until the triticale is in the ground, essentials first!

Friday morning was the big day to get all of the seed in the ground. I got up, cooked a great breakfast and got out to the machine shed. There was only a little grass seed left so I just tossed in a bag of triticale over the top. The bins will only hold one 50# bag of triticale. It will hold about 75# of grass seed. On a fluke I decided to inspect the seeder, it had been used for several days last week. Yep, it has these six inch teeth that rotate, two teeth to each hub for a total of twelve, five of them were broken off. Very not user friendly to get them off. I kept pulling out tools, finally grabbed my impact driver and could not get bolts loose with that. I need a 18” bar to really get some leverage except the teeth sticking down cause wrench access issues. It was a nightmare and took way too long. I finally snapped a couple of bolts off. I managed to get three installed and called it good enough. I was going to have to make a trip to Pendleton to get new nuts and bolts and a round trip would take me around two hours. It was supposed to rain and the clouds looked like it was coming. I started to get the occasional drop on me while I was laying on the ground doing mechanic work. I fired up the tractor and started planting seed, after the first field I had to stop and go back to the machine shop for an actual jacket, it was cold. While I was there I had to pump up the left front tire, it has a slow leak. As soon as I did that the rain started. I got that field done and then drove up to the triangle. The rain makes it easy to see where you have been. It didn’t really start to rain hard until the last thirty minutes. I was shivering by the time I got done and it still took me until 1630 to get done. I spent a long time in the hot shower getting warm. We have gotten one inch of rain in the last 18 hours! The weather is just crazy. I will be planting the hillside after it dries out for 4-5 days. The ground needs to not be muddy. I will also be picking up new nuts and bolts for the seeder. Luckily, I did have a stockpile of teeth already in my parts bin.

Planting has begun

Well we made some progress! Mr Professional came out for three days and between me prepping fields and him planting them we were finally able to get some grass seed planted. I had a 200# leftover from last year so we are getting that all in the ground. I went on Friday to pick up some triticale seed so we could get it in the ground. There is about five acres that need triticale but the seed place did not have it in. They said that an order had been placed two months prior but they were having trouble getting it into 50# bags. I told her I needed to have the seed in the ground before this upcoming Saturday as there was rain coming. She knew this and said if necessary they will break out a 2000# tote and scoop out 400#. So one way or another I am hopeful that I can get it the ground in time. If it rains on Saturday then we can switch to granular fertilizer and get that on the ground. Working all the time did not give me a lot of time to prep the fields.

We even managed to do a little animal management. We ran all of the sheep into the barn and medicated every one of them for worms. We ended up sorting off all of the lambs, the youngest are over three months old and can be weaned. We moved 31 lambs to lower pasture plus the 8 lambs that are already there and one of the 31 is leftover and is ready for slaughter. We have 16 super skinny ewes and 30 normal size ewes. Most of the super skinny ewes are our older ones, so moving the lambs off of them, giving them wormer and moving them into the upper greener pastures should hopefully fix some of the skinny. We still need to move the feeders into the barn and toss out some straw onto the ground.

I have been washing laundry every night. I come in at dark covered in dust and just shed my clothes in the laundry room and dash for the shower. I have even been washing my hat every night. There is so much dust I have even been wearing an N95 while working the soil. I actually feel better at night if I wear the mask during the day. I had to go down and clear out one of the creek crossings and get it ready for the spring floods. It is miserable digging the wire and panels out of the ditch and trying to get it set back up so the water can flow under it. Somehow I ended up splitting the finger on my glove. I was super glad I had the gloves on as if I had not I think I would have needed stitches. I tore up my shirt and pants doing the clean up so I just tore off a strip of shirt and wrapped it around my fingertip to get the bleeding to stop.

The pickup battery is dead. I cannot remember when I had it replaced last but I feel it was not that long ago. We got the battery charged up but then I went and left the glove box open. It of course has a little light in it and burned up all the charge I had managed to get onto the battery. It is back on the charger again.

I was fortunate to have my nephew’s young daughter help me get the sheep in one evening! He had talked to me about making her little mobile car go faster with a DeWalt battery. So I showed her how to drive the tractor and let her drive. She is five years old. We used the tractor to bring in the sheep then went to collect the eggs. The puppy, Chance, got out of the yard and spent ten minutes ignoring me and running around. The puppy made me look bad! She needs more work on coming back when she is outside and distracted by scents. I of course bragged to wife that I had child time. She showed me up and went the next day to visit with her also.

I need to be planting fields

I am getting stuff done on my staycation. Yesterday, I got all of the big bales stacked up against the fence. I backed them up so that the cows could not reach through and eat the backside. We had scavenged enough free pallets this summer to go around two sides of the entire pile. Pile is an odd word since I was unable to lift any bales to stack one on top of another. My row is three bales wide and 13 bales deep. While I was moving hay bales, Mr Professional came out and started mowing field #5 so we can get it ready to plant triticale. The problem was the little John Deere tractor kept overheating. There was too much dust and chaff in the air and it kept clogging up the radiator intake. We finally went to town to get a tarp and discovered that the store was having a huge DeWalt tool sale the next day. This of course meant I had to return the next day. The tarp fit perfectly and we tied down every single grommet to one of the strings on the bales, leaned the pallets against the sides and then distributed pallets all across the top of the tarp to keep it from blowing off or ripping in the wind. The plan is for this to be two years worth of hay for the cows. I plan on keeping the animals out of this field, the pallets along the side are for the deer and elk.

I did go to town first thing in the morning, I made it into the store twenty minutes after it opened. I was able to get the small 4” clamps DeWalt makes for Annmarie. They are the best when clamping together laser projects, they don’t give or slide. I got a hedge trimmer for the lavender and an electric chain saw. These days I really like looking at products that are quieter. As I keep losing my hearing avoiding loud noises without hearing protection is something I try and avoid. When I got home I started mowing the fields with the Kubota. It still tried to overheat three times. I had to blow out the dust and chaff twice and clean out the air intake two more times. I have the triangle still to mow but I am going to get the field ready for seed tomorrow and hopefully plant on Saturday. I will need to pick up seed on Friday. I will be overspreading grass on a couple of fields and tossing out some crumble fertilizer. My hope is that we can get a great crop in the spring. I will be taking the old John Deere baler in next month to get the bearing replaced and the tie fingers adjusted. I forgot to take the raccoon carcass up to the boneyard. That really needs to happen tomorrow before it gets so bad I don’t want to touch it. The chickens are now laying four eggs a day, double what they were before I killed the raccoon.

The field across the creek needs to be disced and leveled. It had some flooding and water gouging from many years ago and it needs some serious work to create a surface that will be safe to make and cut hay on. I just need to remember where I stashed the disc set?

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.