Remember that old saying about if you are looking for wisdom on a particular subject you should ask a farmer because he is always out-standing in his field? That is what I am reminded of when this time of year is calling us and especially Mike to walk through the hayfields ans assess the timing to begin hay harvest. Now that we are within a month of cutting the some of the fields, the walks have become a daily ritual.
Each field ripens differently since we have no flat area anywhere on the farm. The river meanders through with odd eddies and horseshoe bends, and each hayfield is shaded in parts from riparian trees, the tall trees in the old railroad grade and the hillside. The sun doesn’t hit some of the slopes or shady spots this time of year.
Mike’s daily walks are usually with the company of a dog or two and they make their way around the thin spots and the lush ones, areas with more white clover and those with fine meadow grass. He reaffirms his mental maps as to how far the bog area of the big field encroaches out into the field from the old tile. The new sunken areas from ancient old growth roots that have begun to decay now that the live tree tops and subsequent stumps have been gone more than a hundred years. He evaluates how much damage the elk herds have been doing and how much vegetation they are leaving for us to harvest.
Our time for reflection is drawing to a close as we inch our way toward hay season. We are already starting to transition out of processing firewood which has remained stronger than usual in sales this spring. All the splitting area of the barn will be cleaned out so the hay equipment can be pulled out of hibernation. The empty cribs used to hold split wood will be stacked up out of the way of hay production as with the Super Splitter and the chainsaws. The few cribs full of wood that we have ready to wrap into bundles are tucked into a corner of the bull barn where I’ll be able to continue to make a small supply for weekly deliveries.
As for Mike, he is probably outstanding in his field as he ponders the next few weeks here on the farm.
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Barns are messy places, especially where the cows stand. They drag the mess in on their big feet and add much more volume after that. What is left after they leave the barn is called muck, I believe it stands for mud + yuck. Anyway, the cows deposit a lot of muck while they stand around eating their meals and it has to be cleaned out every so often. With our winter coming in February and March this year, we fell behind with the barn cleaning duties and the muck levels were getting higher and higher. Continue reading
As we empty the cribs of dry firewood during the bundling process, we are gearing up to refill them with split wood that still needs time to cure and dry.
There is room for two rows of cribs along with storing the bulldozer for winter now that we have fed up the fall portion of the hay we put in during the summer
One row is designated for completely cured wood ready for bundling and the other is for the freshly split wood. There always seems to be competition for storage space no matter how big or how many barns we have and that was the case even before we started filling the gaps with firewood!
The front loader tractor with pallet forks makes for easy shuffling of empty cribs to convenient staging areas so the re-loaded cribs that can be placed in rows for drying. Right now we have four empty cribs so this week will be spent cutting 16 inch pieces off the logs in the landing, splitting them and stacking the four cribs so they can dry. It is going to be a busy week.
We were gifted with a couple of loads of chipped vegetation from our local West Oregon Electric Line Crew recently. The chips are very green and were heating quickly with the warm weather. To keep the pile from molding, we had to do a little mixing.
Mike got a chance to practice techniques with the new bucket tractor as he broke apart the stack and re-piled it up.
During the winter months, the chips will be used for bedding in the bull and show barns. The chips will be spread across the flooring in thin layers to absorb (like a large scale cat box) and to provide a comfy spot for the cows to relax.
The mother cats had their litters behind the big hay stack in the barn. I had gotten a glimpse or two the other day, shortly after seeing a few of them, the mothers moved them from the barn to the boards stacked up under the tin roof of the shop.
Daily, we see the mother cats allowing the kittens to travel farther and farther from the safety of the stack. It is hard to get a good count but it looks like there are about 6 kittens all shades of black with one being a dark colored calico with one white back paw.
It is a communal arrangement with both mother cats coming and going for nursing and bathing duties.
With double the milk supply available, the kittens are growing rapidly at this stage and soon will be outside most of the time. We try to touch and talk to the little ones every day so they are not totally feral. We need them to trust us so we can use them at the barns to control mice and rats.
With the weather now changing from dry late summer to wet fall, we are finished with all that can be done to rock the roads that we use during the winter to haul hay from the barns to the outdoor feeders.
The piles of rock have all been smoothed out and we have packed the road down with equipment.
Winter rains will soon tell if the path will be able to hold up through the season.