It has been a dry summer, so much so that the grass hasn’t been growing much at all. Because of this the sheep and cow are currently eating hay and I will probably have to give them another bale soon. I’m not sure hay prices are going to drop so I wanted to get some hay now. I was able to find someone who could deliver 10 bales yesterday, so I pulled the trigger and had it delivered. Delivery was the best option for me, I could only fit four round bales on my trailer, if I really work at it so it would take me three trips to get the ten bales he was able to deliver. At over an hour and a half round trip, it was money well spent.
I used the tarp with which they transported our house. It kept the inside of the house from blowing away on the highway and is over 70′ long and probably 12′ feet wide. When they were leaving after putting the house together they asked if I wanted to save the tarps or throw them away, I definitely wanted to keep them so they have been stored under the house since then.
This should hopefully be enough hay for the winter. We currently have 13 bales, one of which I will give to the animals while the grass grows back, and if we are lucky we will get a couple more bales when they bale our field in the fall.
If you’re interested, here is the video of me moving it with the tractor.
Shortly after we got our steer calves I got to work making a hay feeder. For those of you who follow me, you know I like to work with what I have on hand. For this project it happened to be a cattle panel, some fencing staples, some two by fours, and some electric fence wire.
I knew I wanted to use the horizontal support that was next to the gate to attach the top of the feeder. I took another two by four and ran it between the two vertical posts nearest the gate.
I had already bent the section of cattle panel into a “v” so I attached one end to the aforementioned horizontal support using fencing staples. I then attached the bottom of the “v” to the newly installed horizontal support.
In order to hold the other side of the “v” from bending down I took two 2×4’s and screwed them into the top support. I then used fencing staples to attach the “v” to the 2×4.
It was at this point I thought I was done. “Not so fast” said the crafty calves. They quickly learned that they could pull hay out of the ends and onto the ground. In order to stop, or at least slow, this practice I zig-zagged electric fence wire across the ends. That worked well.
Using what I had on hand, I was able to make a very serviceable hay feeder. Once the steers come back in the fall, and are much larger, this feeder probably won’t hold enough feed. I am hoping to make a round bale feeder, but that will be another post.
Yesterday was busy, but in a good way. First on the agenda was picking up our raw milk. On the way home I noticed someone had put out a seed tray in the garbage along with a worn down snow shovel. I will take the snow blade off and keep the handle as a spare but the real score was the D handle on the end of the handle shaft. I love adding those to shovels to add extra control.
On Wednesday I had won an auction for a kicker wagon and yesterday was pickup day for said auction. I like to drive different roads when possible to see different areas around us. On my way to pick up the wagon I took a way I seldom drive and noticed a dairy farm that I had never noticed before. I decided to drive by the front and see if there was a sign so I could call, and maybe ask about bottle calves. Unfortunately there was no sign, so I turned around and headed for the wagon. Just as I was turning a tractor pulled out of the farm in front of me, so I flagged it down and talked to the man driving. He told me to come to the farm later that day and talk to his sister, who runs the farm, and she might be able to help me out. Fast forward to that afternoon, she had several month old calves who are already castrated, dehorned, and bucket trained. To recap, they are three weeks older than what I had been looking at with a bottle calve, all the work is done, and bucket feeding is easier than bottle feeding. So maybe we will be getting some cows sooner rather than later. The woman who runs the farm was extremely nice. She let my kids walk around and pet the calves, they even had a heifer calf born that morning that the kids could pet. And they got to see the milking parlor with all the cows hooked up.
Rewind to the morning, I picked up the wagon without any problem. A kicker wagon is a wagon that trails behind a hay baler and has hay bales thrown into it by a kicker on the baler. As such it has sides on it and is large. The trailer is 8’x16′ with sides over six feet tall. A perfect mobile chicken coop if you ask me, and that is what I plan to use it for.
Late afternoon found me helping my brother in law load arena panels onto a trailer for transport this weekend. Arena panels are significantly heavier than the tube type panels you can buy at Tractor Supply or the like, so I didn’t need to work out last night.
I topped off the day with a meeting at church with good friends. When I got home everyone was pretty much asleep and I was greeted with this sunset. I find myself taking pictures of our sunsets quite often, probably a sign that I am more than happy with where we are living.
All those long and late nights in the barn after everyone else was asleep, moving and organizing all of our “stuff” was well worth it. We had our annual fall party on Sunday and it was, as far as I can tell, a rousing success. It seems as though each year the party has grown and this year it seemed to grow by leaps and bounds.
But let me return to the preparing. I most obviously couldn’t have done it without especially my wife, but the kids also chipped in as well. Our two older boys were a great help the day before, and the morning of the party. I am not sure we would have been ready in time were it not for them helping, and not just helping, but being eager and joyful helpers. As a father it is always nice to see your children enjoying serving other people, and that is what they were doing. They were serving our guests before they arrived.
The party itself is king of a blur for me. I didn’t have nearly enough time to visit with nearly enough people but everywhere I looked I saw smiling faces and children having fun so it was a great day. For those of you who know me, you know I love talking. I love taking people, especially people who haven’t been to one of our fall parties, on our hay ride and showing them the property and explaining how it has gotten to where it is today. Despite my enjoyment of the hay rides, I think my favorite part of this party was looking out over the fields and seeing many many kids of all ages, some not technically kids anymore, playing and smiling. There was by far the most amount of kids this year, in total probably between 35-50.
I even managed not to end up buying a ridiculous amount of hot dogs, we have leftovers, but nothing obscene. The weather held out and it was a glorious fall day. I honestly couldn’t have hoped for anything better.
Again it has been a lot of little stuff that has been getting done around here. Organizing the barn(a little), keeping ahead of the grass(mostly), and trying to pick up the yard of rocks, cinder blocks, etc. has been filling up the time. With fall here the kids are involved in swimming, soccer, and gymnastics so free time is hard to come by.
One of the things that has happened most recently is the need to move the ram lamb, Rango. A couple weeks ago he started trying to mount the females. My brother in law put a elastrator band on him when he was young so he shouldn’t be able to actually do anything, but it looked like it was getting annoying to the ewes. We decided then that he needed to go back to my brother in law’s house to finish eating some grass there before heading to the butcher. Unfortunately his stock trailer was on the other side of the state. We had tossed the idea of using pallets to make a temporary stock trailer out of my flatbed trailer, but that was another project I didn’t have time for, so moving him had been put on the back burner for the time. Until a couple nights ago when he started going after my older ewe, head butting and trying to butt her in the side. He needed to go, and now.
The next morning I went to Tractor Supply and picked up some cattle panels and T posts and made a temporary holding pen in the corner of the pasture. With George, our older ram watching me while I worked, and Homestead Boy #2 watching George with the hose at ready to make sure he didn’t get to curious while I wasn’t watching, I was able to get the posts in the ground and the panels hung on them. Then with Homestead Boy #2 occupying George with some sweet feed I was able to get the rest of the sheep close enough to me to grab Rango’s horn and pull him into the newly made pen. I had been able to get all of this done while Homestead Boy #3 was takin a nap. Easy as pie, no problems, or so I thought.
After finishing, Homestead Boy #3 woke up, and I praised him for taking a long enough nap for me to finish my project. No sooner had the words exited my mouth, Homestead Boy #1 ran into the house yelling that George had gotten into the pen with Rango and they were fighting. So Boy #1 took Boy #3 for me and I ran outside. In the meantime Boy #2 had grabbed the hose and had distracted them enough with that to keep them from fighting any more. I was able to coax George over to me and pull him through the small gap, that I had previously thought non existent, and they were separated once again. There happened to be just enough bow in the field fence that when George pushed hard enough he was able to squeeze through. I think it was the classic case of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence. I can’t think of any other reason he would have wanted to be over there. I used a fence tie to pull the panel and field fence together and leaned a partial roll of field fence against the gap just to be sure and there were no more problems for the rest of the day.
Remember I said that the stock trailer was on the other side of the state? I didn’t have time to make one out of panels so my solution was to sit in the back of the pickup truck and hold Rango until we got to my brother in law’s house. My brother in law was dubious, but as long as I was the one sitting in the back he was willing to give it a try. Fortunately we don’t live far from each other. Getting him into the truck was without drama. While we were driving Rango started by trying to push me through the cab of the truck. For those of you who don’t know, Shetland are a small breed of sheep and with him being only about 6 months old him pushing me was not of worry. Less than a minute into the trip he decided to flip himself over his head and try to get away like that. Fortunately he landed with his feet away from me and laid there the rest of the trip. I actually thought he may have hurt himself because he literally didn’t move the rest of the way. But upon arrival he gave one last kick, and into his new(old) home he went. Where he is staying now is where he was born and where the sheep were kept last winter.
Rango was never much for being petted or being around people. But over the last month or so he had started letting the kids pet him every once in a while. When he was in his temporary pen it almost seemed like he knew he was leaving because he came over to the fence any time a child was nearby hoping for a pet. When he was first born he was a sandy brown color. As the summer wore on he bleached out to an almost white, like his mother. It was decided early on by my brother in law and I that any ram lambs would be butchered in the fall. We didn’t want to have to feed them over the winter. My kids knew that all along, and I had reinforced it throughout the summer so while I am sure they will miss him I don’t think there will be any drama about it. My nephews are the ones who named him, and while they also knew his fate going in, they seem more attached to him.
While all of this was happening the last couple days the gentleman down the street came to cut the hay so he could get it baled before the weather turns. He started cutting on Tuesday but had mechanical problems so he finished yesterday. He was actually witness to the ram fighting and said how he was impressed that Homestead Boy #2 just took care of business and got the hose and dealt with the rams. My guess is he will rake it today, and then bale it on Friday. I will be interested to see how many bales I get this time around.
Other than that we are on week two of our homeschooling curriculum and things are going well. While we are busy, even with things going on during the day, we are staying on schedule with much more ease than last year. With trying to get the house built, utilities run, house painted, etc last year it was extremely difficult to juggle everything and I much prefer this year, even with a third child in school.
I don’t know if any of you have sand hill cranes where you live, but their call/alarm is very distinctive. They sound like what I would imagine dinosaurs to sound like. We have a pair that patrol our field pretty much every morning. I have learned that they are very good at alerting predators. Several times since we have lived here they have alerted me to coyotes in the morning. This morning they alerted but it was so foggy that I couldn’t see the coyotes until they were running away.
Lastly I found this guy while I was outside this afternoon.
I am surprised at how late in the season there is a baby snapping turtle. Not sure why he hatched so late, but I put him in the tall grass and hopefully he will find his way.
A quick recap: originally a cattle farmer not far from us was going to bale our fields. He was going to make them into round bales and was going to leave me a couple for my sheep this winter. Apparently he had gotten too busy so he told another neighbor, who is actually closer and has horses that he should contact me about baling. He was going to make square bales. The shape of the hay really didn’t matter one way or another to me.
So the second gentleman cut the field and raked it into windrows. While he was raking it I had a chance to talk to him for a minute and he told me he would be baling it the next day around noon. When noon came and went and he wasn’t there, I figured the weather forecast had changed and he would be there the next day. Around five he arrived with his tractor with the hay rake still attached. He started raking it into larger windrows and when he got my attention, waved me over. He explained that his baler wasn’t working correctly. It would bale fine, but when it went to tie them, instead of cutting the twine after the knot it cut right through the knot. So he was raking it into larger windrows so the original farmer could round bale it.
In the end I got two large round bales and will probably get more hay in another cutting this fall. By the time I got home that night it was 9:45 so I was tarping the bales by clouded moonlight as there was a chance of rain. I am going to call him and see if he has a bale spear and can move the bales up to the barn and set them on some pallets.