I have spent 13 more hours working on the upper seven acre field. I am using the harrow/arena groomer on it to smooth it out but due to all the organic matter in the field the harrow keeps getting plugged. I have managed to build walls on two sides of the field from all the debris. This is causing me to have to go over areas multiple times to collect and remove all of the stuff. I still have about another four hours. This is causing me to have to reevaluate how the fields are going to get planted. I cannot do 20 acres at a time. It is just too much ground. I am going to have to only do 4-7 acres/year or look at getting someone to custom plant 15-20 acres for us. I just cannot do that much with my little equipment.
The kestrel and red tailed hawks, adults and this year’s nestlings, have finally gotten used to me running the tractor around in circles and patterns in field #1. They have started to watch for mice and dive bomb them after I have passed by. I saw both kestrels yesterday! I usually only ever see one but I spotted two yesterday and the new hawks don’t have their red tails yet. The wind has been blowing such that with the hill and updraft the hawks can literally float on the wind. I saw one stay in the same position for over 20 minutes and never flapped its wings once! It just kept twitching its wings causing micro adjustments in its wing shape. The pheasants are out in droves! I saw five roosters on the way to the field and again on the way back to the house seven hours later. They are not very jumpy this year which is highly unusual.
I have included a picture of me raking the leaves. You will notice the difference as there are fewer sheep and they are all very fat from eating all summer long. I like to switch it up from the me mowing the lawn pictures. After an entire morning grazing they are sitting out in the sun resting, it does not look like they made any progress on the leaves. This process may take a couple of weeks. I will be hard at work!
Winter is here sorta, it got down into the teens, temperature wise but this week it got to over 60 degrees during the week. It is not normal. It is supposed to rain over 1/2” by the end of the week. That is going to mess up my planting schedule. If I had not had to fix all the flood damaged fencing I could have spent those six weeks planting. Oh well, back to baby steps. One foot forward every day will get us to the finish line.
We had let the alpaca back into the cow area when I fed the cows last week. This lone black alpaca, we think Snoop, wandered off by himself. We thought he was lost so Annmarie herded him back out to his buddies. The first chance he got he got back in with the cows and then isolated himself again. We think he is just old and tired of the BS male dominance fighting. We are letting him stay by himself this time.
The chickens discovered a section of the new fence in the barn lot that I did not make chicken proof. It’s on the opposite side of the water and only about four feet long but they found it and have been using it to get into the flower area that I wanted them exiled from. So now I will need to fix that at some point.
I had to divert from field work on Sunday to take care of a couple of OMG its going to freeze items on the to do list. I fed the cows. I like to try and hold off until November but it was just not going to wait any longer. Annmarie had a great idea, we are going to feed one bale in the orchard and one bale in the pea field (#7 if we use the same counting and a total of 10 fields delineated by fence). This forces the cows to choose and not run off certain cows. I will swing the gates and isolate them to this area only in a few weeks when the weather gets bitter cold. I also had to fill in the ditch we dug this summer to fix the main water line leak. I had not done that yet, so I took the time to fill in the ditch with the piled up dirt I had dug out. It took a lot less time to fill it in than it did to dig it out. After that was all done then I did go pull the disc around.
I spent Monday and Tuesday evening/early nights on the tractor dragging the harrow around. This would have been easier if I had burned off the field first. It keeps getting clogged up with dead plant debris. The upper wheat field (#1) is so rutted from the flooding this spring that it just bounces you all over the place. It’s brutal to sit on that little tractor and get bounced like a monkey in a cage. If if did not keep my seatbelt on I would get tossed off of the tractor. The harrow has a bar and rolling compactor in the back, its an arena groomer, so I am able to really smooth out the field but it means going over the entire field a second time!
Driving around in circles leaves lots of time to think. There are definitely more mice out in the dark then daylight. Unfortunately, there are not six hawks and the local kestrel resident swooping down and killing them at night. I started wishing for owls to drop out of the sky and swoop down and catch mice but none came. Then I thought it would be cool if large mice eating bats would drop out of the sky and start picking up and flying off with mice, very cool. But then it dawned on me that the bats would probably have to be fairly big and blood suckers. It sounded less cool after that so I went on to large spiders. But then I figured the spiders homes would be in the very dirt I was turning up and then the tractor is not tall enough and has no cab. I do not want huge spiders crawling all over me. I went back to my original idea of owls, owls are safe. I had to give it up Tuesday night after a harrow part came loose and I needed two wrenches and only had one on the tractor. It was a sign from above to be done.
Annmarie finished our third batch of apple butter. Really our ninth as we keep making triple batches. My suggestion was to double the spice and cut sugar down from 6 cups to 5 cups. When I came back inside she had tripled the spices and kept the same sugar. It tasted like she had added about half as much sugar as the last batch where she only used 1.5 times the spice. This #3 batch is the best! We are looking to see if we have enough apples for a fourth batch.
Today Mr Professional came out and blew water out of our sprinkler lines and picked up hoses. It is supposed to drop down to mid teens by Saturday and snow. I have not managed to plant yet. I am hoping next week after it warms up I can finish it all up. This is not easy to get all the things done in a day. I finally took tonight off and cleaned up the kitchen, cleaned the hard water deposits off of our apple butter jars and worked on the blog.
Sunday morning it dawned on me that I had a pull behind furrow for the tractor and was not utilizing it! Thank you Penny for convincing me to buy it when I had no need for it. I have had it a few years and not used it but once or twice. I hooked it up to the tractor and drug the ditch the entire length three times and it tore it up great! All I need to do now is go up there with the box blade on and I can finish getting the ditch cleaned out. I suspect it will take me another 8 hours to get it all cleaned up. I saw our friendly kestrel again. It must have a nest or be living right in the area. While I was digging the ditch I got the overhead tractor lights caught in the branches of a tree. After a few hours of digging my large light fell off the tractor and was hanging by its cord. I drove home and called it a night. I needed to fix the lights anyways.
Today I opted to get the disc set up and running. I had seen it up between the wheat fields. It took me abut 20 minutes to get the drag behind rakes off of the disc. There is so much organic matter I knew they would just clog up and I would have to stop every five minutes to empty it out. It took me a another 15 minutes to get it working correctly. I circled the little patch of ground between the wheat fields then took disc up to the seven acre field and went around its border three times. This way if I want to burn it in a month I can. The real reason to use the disc was to tear up the area I want to drag with the box blade. I want to lower the water laden area in field two another one foot and take that dirt and build up the surrounding area. I need to fix all the wash boarding that occurred from the running water throughout the field. I went over it in every direction for about 90 minutes and was able to get a fairly good loosening of soil. Using the teeth on the box blade now I should be able to drag this and move a bunch of dirt. I am running out of time! I only have half a day tomorrow then we go to the coast. I am going to work on tightening the momma/baby fence tomorrow. I can hard wire in the gate for now as I won’t need it to operate correctly until the spring. After I get the gate wired shut and the other fence tightened I just have the one spring crossing to harden. Luckily if they get under that fence they just get trapped in the second flower area and there are no flowers in there. So as soon as I get the fence tightened it should hold animals and we will be ready for winter. Next week after I get done working I will ready the barn and make the last rock jack. I may need to blow out the drip lines also. Winter is coming.
Monday morning I fixed the lights on the tractor. I had a smaller light that I installed looking forward. The light is about 75% smaller than the one I knocked off. I realized that you don’t need much light looking forward, more looking backwards where the equipment is pulling behind the tractor. I had so much light power I was sucking the battery dry. So less light is better for multiple reasons. Today I cut a piece of pipe to use as conduit so that branches could not grab the loose wires. I will need to try it out in the dark and see how it works still.
I did it, I have a new cell phone, I went backwards and purchased the cheap Apple SE 2020. I loved the small size and the larger phone do not fit in my pocket well, especially after you put them in a case that is break proof. I drop my phone at least three times a week, not including all the dirt and dust and bouncing around it does on a weekly basis. The screen seems more responsive and I don’t have to juggle it around in my hand to make it work one handed. All of these are necessities for keeping up the blog.
I spent Friday doing a few odds and ends around the house. We have company coming next week so some cleanup and organization is in order. More concrete blocks were needed for the front spring and bridge in the barn lot. I had planned on driving to Hermiston but found them locally for the same price! I ended up picking up 132 blocks, 40 bags of Sakrete and 200’ of rebar, around 7000 pounds of material. This was good as my trailer only holds 7500#. I managed to get the trailer into the ram pasture and took 90 minutes just before dark to unload them all. I did not want to unload them all at once but I needed the trailer on Saturday to pickup the 40 tons of hay necessary to get us through the winter.
I have decided that I need to lay in and pour two footing for the bridge in the barn lot. This way when the bridge gets washed away I can just find it and set it back on top of the concrete footings.
Saturday start time was 1000, this is nice every once in a while. I had 20 ton of triticale and 20 ton of grass/alfalfa combo to pickup a few miles outside of town. I can only carry 5 of the large bales at a time and had 62 to pickup! The round trip times varied from 26-46 minutes depending on what was going on. I did not finish until around 1730. Once I go to the house I just shoved them off with the tractor. They are too heavy to lift with the tractor. I will get them all organized on Sunday. I want to push as many as I can into the hay side of the machine shed so they are out of the weather. Those will be the last ones used for the year as they will be protected. I cannot lift a full bale so the stack can only be one bale high. I am hoping to get 16 bales under cover. The alpaca love the bales just laying around, they have been going from bale to bale sampling to see which one is their favorite. The bales also afford them the luxury of laying down and eating!
I did have to pause and try and pickup the dead kitten at my mother in laws house. It was in the shed in a red bag. She had a blind kitten that had some weird eye infection that would not go away and one of the nephews named it Frankenstein. She ran over Frank backing out of her garage. I could not find Frank in the red bag. So I called the wife and then the mother in law, it turns out frank was in a red bag inside of a cardboard box inside of a blue bag! Frank has been dealt with and is no longer with us.
Annmarie has made contact with a fiber mill in Idaho that we can drive to and drop off our fleece to be converted into yarn! They want a single fleece per bag so on Tuesday we will do that then we will schedule a delivery day and time! Unfortunately, none of the fiber that we stored out in the barn with the mice and rodents survived. So lesson learned, the fleece must be dealt with directly after it is removed from the animal. I will be creating and assembling a cleaning tumbler next year for the fiber.
I also started to apply epoxy to our gnome doors. I have more to do and obviously need some practice on working with epoxy. Our goal is to get these encased in epoxy and spread them everywhere around our yard and barn lot. Meathead is painting more and I will get those sealed up. I would like to have about 20 of these spread over the property.
I have been fortunate enough to be able to take a few weeks off of work and regain my sanity. I am going to use my new favorite term “Forever Friday” to celebrate my autonomy (while still collecting a paycheck!). I spent Friday starting to clean out the barn. Those clamp on manure forks I got for the tractor to clean up the flood damage are coming in incredibly handy to actually clean up manure! The forks will go into the manure and allow me to pick it up with the bucket. The best part is they clamp on and off so when I start to get a muddy floor that really needs a straight bucket to scoop up, I just dump the forks for a 2-4 bucket loads then put them back on. This keeps me from having to drive around in the mud. I spent five hours cleaning up the barn so far. It usually takes about 40 hours to empty and about 30 more hours to move the manure piles away from the barn. Now I am able to scoop and drive directly out to the manure compost pile. My hope is to let the pile compost for one year then put it in the new manure spreader and get it on the fields. The current problem with that is I have a frozen shaft on the manure spreader. I have tried multiple lubricants on it with no success. I am going to heat it up with a torch next and see if I can get it break loose. I am hoping to only spend 40 hours total on the barn this year and to minimize the amount of hand work that has to be done.
Yesterday, I started getting hay in for the winter. I purchased six ton for the sheep and horses. I pooled my resources with a friend and we made two trips. The first load came to my house and we loaded it into the barn and got it all ready! The seller sent their son with us to help unload and it was glorious. We spent all day getting our four loads. I made sure and put bales in the back of the pickup to add some weight so the pickup would not get jerked around by the trailer. This worked very well and I had no trailer swerving on either load. I just need to get the large bales now. I will do that after I get the barn dug out. After the barn clean out and hay pickup I will be fixing the barn lot fence and bridge. I am keeping my list short and focusing on a couple of things only to ensure I can get them all done on my time off.
Annmarie has been working on getting our alpaca fleece fiber cleaned out. She has discovered two pieces of equipment she would like to make this an easier prospect. The bingo cage like apparatus is my favorite so far. I will be building this in the near future. I am just trying to figure out where to store it when its not in use. We are going to send the fiber out to a mill to be converted into yarn for us.