The extreme warm temperatures have moderated. We had a couple of days of moisture that reduced the fire danger in the area, so it is time to get back at it before the real rains come and muck up the dirt roads that lead up into the woods.
We are back to cleaning up dead and dying trees in the forest on the hillside above our hay fields. This process will still take a couple of years to complete since we are also doing some much-needed thinning at the same time. Continue reading
The frozen tundra was the last to thaw. The many inches of rain we have gotten since the snow and ice just could not absorb into the ground.
So areas like this one got a sloppy, muddy run off. This spot is along the nursery field. There is a rocked road just on the other side of the fence and the hillside beyond that. The thin layer of dirt and mud that was thawed slid right over the top of the layers that were still frozen.
The slurry flowed down under the wire fence and deposited itself in sweeping mounds at the edge of the field. These mounds will have to be taken care of before the grass tries to grow through the thick layer because the hay equipment will not be able to drive through and the grass will get choked out.
The spots that are the thicker layers of deposit will be scooped up, the bigger ones by tractor and the smaller ones by shovel and bucket. The deposits that are thinner yet will be dragged apart by the field harrow pulled behind the Gator. The harrow is nothing more than a blanket of steel teeth pulled behind a piece of equipment that combs through the grass to pull out moss while smoothing mole mounds, foot imprints, and other small imperfections in the topsoil.
We harrow all the hay fields every spring anyway, we will just have to spend a couple of extra days on this area to get it back into healthy, grass growing production. The harrowing will start when the ground has firmed up after the winter rains.
The John Deere Gator is the most used piece of equipment on the farm. It is transport from one side of the river to the other during twice daily feedings, we haul hay, fencing, dogs, cats, calves and people to every corner of the place. It goes up hill and down, around the river, through the woods and up the road.
During this cold snap we have moved out the car and moved the Gator into the garage. Sitting inside the shop does not offer enough protection from the elements and the moisture that dropped off the undercarriage kept causing the Gator to freeze itself to the ground.
It’s ok that my garage smells like a barn for a while, as long as our valuable transport can stay running.
Jackson, the farm dog, has a favorite place to ride. Whenever there are hay bales in the back of the John Deere Gator, Jackson is on top of them, it’s his lookout spot. He rides on flat roads and bumpy roads, up the county road at 30 mph, down through fields and over the bridge that spans the Nehalem River.
He rides on top when there is one bale or ten. He perches right on the topmost bale and hangs on with a grin on his face. He looks like he is surfing as he rides the waves of the farm.
When he dis-em-BARKS from his wild ride, he heads to his next favorite spot and that is the river for a quick swim or swig.
The other day, I was driving the Gator over to the outside feeders where Mike was smoothing the rock around the feeders. I had a rigid rake and was going to try to smooth some of the areas that he couldn’t reach with the bucket on the tractor.
It was my thought that I needed to park off the road as to be out of the way when he wanted to move the tractor back to the barn. I had Butler the dog in the front of the Gator with me and Jackson the other dog, tethered in the back. When I pulled off the road I didn’t realize that I had parked right on top of a ground nest of yellow jackets. As I shut off the motor, the swarm attacked poor Jackson and was buzzing the whole Gator.
I restarted the motor and slammed the Gator into reverse. Butler made a leaping to safety swan dive out during mid-reverse,. but Jackson couldn’t get away that easily. I reached over the seats and unhooked Jackson and he jumped over the side. He looked back only a moment to give me the stink-eye before running to the river to cool his bee stings. He spent most of the afternoon lounging in the water. Luckily he is not allergic and was back to his old self by dinner time.
Late summer and fall are busy times for bees and they are very active. This close run in with the bees has me more alert for wasps and yellow jackets.
These two nests were noticed as I was loading hay to feed the cows this morning. One nest was inside a pipe and the other one was directly outside the pipe.
Mike has nearly completed the selective logging job for the top of the hill and it has been my job to repair and replace the barb wire fence that runs the ridge next to his skid road.
During the spring and summer months, the cows do not bother to walk the steep hillside since there is so much feed available on the lower areas of the farm. During the fall and early winter, the herd has been known to travel the woods for browsing. It is important to get the fence repaired before the wandering herd finds the areas that have grown over, were smashed during the windstorms of last winter, or were wiped out from elk running through them.
Thank goodness for the John Deere Gator. With the 300 feet change in elevation between the bottom of the river to the top of the hillside, the physical climb would be nearly impossible with all the equipment needed to fix the wire fencing along the ridge. Lugging fence posts, chainsaws, clippers, rolls of wire, clips, staples and lunchboxes fill the storage bed of the gator during our jaunts up the hill.
On days when all the equipment has been hauled up and it is already at the fence line, the trek up the hill can be done by walking. This is a necessity when the ground is too wet to allow the Gator up the steep switchbacks, but once to the ridge a rest is needed before I can begin the work on the fence.
It is hard to see the fence line in all the understory of the tall firs, but 30 feet off the skid road to the left is where the wire boundary needs repair.
As my right hand helper and I were headed to the fenceline one morning where we had finished working the day before, the sound of the Gator startled a herd of elk. They took off quickly and headed toward this fence line. When we got to this spot we noticed the elk had wiped out the section fence that we had worked so hard to repair during our last session.
3 posts were flattened and 2 wires of the fence were broken. Before we could continue on down the fenceline, we had to fix what our elk herd had destroyed.
We have two farm dogs, Jackson and Butler. They are brothers from the same litter, but are very different from each other.
Butler is quiet, reserved and doesn’t like to get his feet wet. Jackson is wild and carefree and runs through puddles at full speed. He also likes to hay surf.
Butler is comfortably sitting next to the driver with the load of hay that is being moved to another barn. Jackson sits on top. From the barn, over the bridge, along the path, across the county road, up the driveway, through the fences and backed up to another barn; his tail is continues to way the whole way.