Farmer Approved

It has been a very productive two days! I had Mr Rainman come out for Friday and of course it rained for a few hours. We cleaned up the machine shed, I worked on welding the weight holder for the three point auger. The soil is only moist for about the first two inches and then its very dry and our dirt has quite a bit of clay. The auger would not go down into the dirt. I had this idea to add 150# by welding on a tractor weight holder so we could put some weight on the auger. Since I had tried the auger for 30 minutes and was getting nowhere we opted to go back to the shop and do some welding. I just keep digging around in the old burn pile and the pile of scrap that keeps coming out of the ground. I have a pile started outside the machine shed and I just dig through it looking for something that will work. If you cover it all up with paint after you are done it covers up a lot of mistakes. I have learned to hit it hard with a hammer afterwards to just make sure it holds. We still had to dig out a small center part of the hole in three of the six holes as we could not get the auger to dig down without it, but it went fairly smooth after that. We were able to do 2 of 6 holes without doing anything. The first day we set the railroad ties in gravel and then used the Mistress (John Deere) to drive in the T-posts. I did have to fill the bucket with gravel and then throw on an extra 150# of tractor weights into the bucket to get enough weight to push in the T-posts. I still had to use the bucket as a driver on three T-posts. It is not elegant but with the bolt on T-post driver I have it does the job. We called it a day after that as I did not have any splicing tubes so I needed to go to town. Annmarie and I went shopping then had dinner afterwards. It was nice.

Saturday we did not have to fight the rain, just the cold! It was 40 degrees and the sun would not come out of the clouds. I felt like an a decrepit old soul trying to get out of bed this morning. I had a hard time sleeping as my entire back and upper arms felt like they were on fire all night long. I started out slow by doing more welding and Mr Rainman, cleaned out the machine shed some more and made the mower ramp for my mother-in-law for her new shed. He also moved the old John Deere baler over to the tractor tool area and away from the machine shed, therefore opening up another bay in the machine shed. I welded some gate latches out of scraps laying around or dug out of the ground. I had to clean the parts up a little bit with the grinder first as I could not get a good spark through all of the corrosion. Some of my later pieces look better than the early ones. Maybe if I keep this up I may be able to do some not so ugly welding.

The wind was blowing and with the cold spell the trees have finally started to drop leaves. My solution to leaves is the same as mowing the grass, I put the sheep in the front yard! I did it first thing this morning and will do it all day tomorrow also. The dogs go on the run so they cannot harass the sheep and the sheep know to stay away from the dogs. They also know the dogs cannot get at them, how they know that I do not know.

I had to run back to town to get the right size splices, the one I picked up the day before was too small. We got all of the wire up, attached and the gates hung in about four hours. The new battery powered fence stapler is the bomb!! It just slams through driving staples. We had all the wooden stays up in under ten minutes, push, hold the trigger, machine whines then slams a staple into the stay. I love using the high tension wire and tighteners now to make H-braces. It keeps them taut and if they get loose at all they are incredibly easy to tighten. Which is not true when you use wooden stays and smooth wire twisted together.

I even managed to sell our old ram as ground mutton this week! He will be going to a good home that will appreciate what he has to offer. I think I still have one cow left to sell.

Winter is close

Well I did the welding thing again. I think the most frustrating thing about the welding is I don’t have a nice clean stash of spare metal. This is a issue that requires some more welding! I am thinking about converting a header trailer into a metal storage building. So what I do now is dig through one of three scrap metal piles until I find a few pieces of metal I think will work, clean them up with the grinder and then wire brush them. I do use a battery powered grinder (thank you DeWalt) to clean them up. Mr Professional said I needed a battery powered circular band saw (yes, it’s a DeWalt) this summer and I bought it. It is the bomb! It was so easy to cut the angle iron and flat iron pieces, and when I failed to measure the T shaped opening on the old tractor weights and welded two pieces of angle iron together that were too wide I was able to slice off an entire edge with ease. I built the supports tall enough to hold two weights at each spot, 50#/each and left room for me to drill a hole and slap a pin through so the weights cannot bounce or fall off. I was able to try it out on the driveway on Friday. It turned out very nice and the extra weight makes all the difference in getting the teeth to dig in a little instead of sitting on the surface of the dry ground. Our driveway is very smooth now! This was needed to finish dragging the last section of field #4. Once that is smooth then it can be planted. I still want to do the 1.5 acres down by where we feed the cows, I am going to call that field #5, the one across the creek #6 and then the far one #7. The orchard field, ram pasture and schoolhouse field will all have names. It must be time to make an index map again.

I spent Saturday morning working on getting our new porch pillar lights installed. This turned out to be a bigger hassle than I thought it would be considering I already had power installed under the porch. I installed a support brace behind the stairwell that makes it virtually impossible to crawl under the stairs. I was able to slip one arm and my head under and that was all. I had to install some jumpers and the 10’ extension wires I purchased which morphed into only 5’ extensions as I was incorrect in my assumption that 5’ was long enough. This caused me to have to install two more extra jumpers to build up the distance. I had to drill holes at the base of the 4×4 and then fish wires through. I installed the light sensor so it had just enough light from the sun to turn the lights off and on by photovoltaic switch. Annmarie sent me a picture after it got dark, I was at my paying job, and they worked! The only problem was when we woke up this morning the lights were off. I am hopeful that I messed up on my timer selection and that tonight when it gets dark the lights will come back on. The lights are 12v DC, and I had to dodge wasps the entire time as they were just dormant enough to hang onto the siding. I came into the house and grabbed hornet spray to kill them. The spray went down into the siding and for the next hour they kept coming out and trying to fall on me as I was working. So to expedite the process I started to smash them with the battery on the drill. I didn’t want to stick my hand or buttocks onto one that was dying but still alive enough to sting me.

While I was crawling in and out from underneath the porch I realized that there are enough blocks to complete the hypotenuse formed by the two sides of the house. This will help cover the opening near the house from our deck install and it will look good from the front of the house. Hopefully, this can get finished this week. We will see…

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.

Welding pass

This week was the last day of my college evening welding class. I passed with a B, for which I had to work hard. I attended every class, got highest scores on the written tests and scored the lowest on most of the actual practical welds. What I did learn was this is a skill that needs to be practiced, a lot. I am not a natural and it would take me hours to learn some particular skill. I am now able to do it, which is a huge leap forward compared to where I was when I started the class. Now I need to figure out what type of equipment I need out on the farm. I really need to get a cutting torch operational and I need a stick welder. The major problem is I don’t have 220V wired anywhere on the farm. I can fix this in the old house but I don’t really want to weld around a wooden building. So I need to look at 120V welders, the good part is I don’t really need to weld through anything thicker than 3/8 of an inch. This will make it easy to cut back on the type of welder I need as I don’t need super high amperage. We also have a propane generator. I need to see how many KWh it puts out and if it has 220V capability. I don’t know as it is for emergencies and we have not had to use it. It would solve a lot of portability problems if it will put out enough juice to run a welder.

I ran out to look at the generator as I am curious now. It will do a 4000 W start and continuous 3250 W, but only does 120 V. The nice part is it has an RV plug so it will do 20 Amps. Further research has led to two SMAW (further use will be stick welding for the uninitiated) welders that run on 120 V. A Hobart Stickmate 160i stick welder for around $570 and a Century Inverter Arc 120 V stick welder for $260. The problem with the cheaper welders is you only can weld about 3 minutes out of 10 minutes and only go up to 90 amps so you must weld thinner material. Since I am already slower than the average welder the down time requirements are not going to hurt me. For you purists out there depending on how the weld was set up and as long as I did a good root weld I could layer in the rest of the welds and still weld thicker material. Luckily for me, I don’t have really anything thicker than 3/8 of an inch to weld and most of those are repairs. I really need a little cart I can put the generator on, propane tank and welder all in one place and have it ready to go. Maybe I need a bigger generator? I probably do not need a bigger generator as I am not a full time farmer working on great big piece of equipment. I am trying to keep our costs realistic and not go all out and buy the most expensive thing. I am also going to do more Oxyacetylene welding, its slow but it doesn’t need any power at all, hard to beat that advantage for some things. I told Annmarie my end goal was to be able to build a 10 foot diameter igloo out of old used horse shoes of all various sizes, old nails, rust and bent shoes included. I have not convinced her that it would be a work of art and not an eye sore yet. I need a few thousand more horse shoes. I only have a few hundred now. I am willing to pay $0.05/horseshoe or $50/1000 shoes, which is way better than the scrap yard. I have not given up the dream yet.

This morning she talked to me about marking the babies and mother sheep when we start lambing. We tried a crayon marker a few years ago and did not have very good luck. Instead of using paint irons where you have to use multiple irons her family uses a L shaped iron and marker paint. She drew it all out on a old envelope to teach me. You create a grid of 9 numbers and use the L iron to create the sides of the grid around the number you want.

I have copied in the four examples she showed me. The I threw me as it is not on the grid she made for me until I said it wasn’t there and she said it equals 0. It made sense when she told me what it was. You just have to have the orientation to the lamb correct and you can match the mothers and babies for the first month at least. She said I needed to just weld the marking rod. I figured out today how to make it without welding anything. I just need to get a piece of 1/4″ square stock 24″ long so I can make it. I will make a wooden handle so it won’t be so cold to handle.

We are very short on rainfall, less than 1/10″ last month. We need some moisture in any form. It can rain for all I care as long as it doesn’t warm up too much and fool the trees.