One Week Later

IMG_5008Hay season has been over for one week, and with the help of a couple days of summer rain showers, the pasture is growing back nicely.

The new growth is a favorite of the herd. They go around the field eating the green spears.

By having a little green growing back, the hay bales that have been put into the barns will last longer through the winter. After last years poor crop of hay and meager regrowth of the pastures, we had to end up buying several load of hay to get us through the year even though we sold several extra animals throughout the year.

 

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Done, Done, Done!

I don’t know why but this hay season has been particularly hard. Nothing has changed over the year except that I am one year older and I know that can not be the problem. I mean, one year could not make that much of a difference, chould it?

My mind says no, but I believe my body is saying differently.

Anyway, hay season is done for the year. The hay is all stacked in the respective barns, the equipment has been cleaned and stacked in order and are in their storage bays until it is time to bring them out again  next year. The cows will have feed through the winter. And I am tired.

I am sure that a few days of down time and I will be back to my old self, but for today, I would like to run away. But it just seems like too much of an effort to do that. Instead, I’ll hook up the rotary mower to the small tractor, slap on my straw hat, and spend some quality time mowing down Canadian Thistles while I contemplate the meaning of life (this always seems to cheer me up).

That Was Disappointing

It was a good hay season day, temperatures hovering around 90 degrees, a light breeze blowing, and all the equipment and people were working as expected.

It had been a rather long day starting around daybreak. We were able to get quite a bit done while waiting for the dew to dry off the fields starting with the basic daily cattle chores and normal prep for field work (lots of greasing gears, lubing chains and mild cursing when the grease gun shoots the thick goo all over instead of inside the vital joints of well-used machinery).

By noon, my right-hand-helper arrived and we were ready to begin picking up bales in the farm truck. It was warm working out in the bed of the truck as the bales were delivered over the side racks by the Henry loader. But, the real heat of the day was felt during the unloading of the truck.

Under the hot tin roof of the barn, standing above a 7 high stack of bales that the bale wagon had neatly stacked, we man-handled bales off the top of the truck and up the stack 5 layers more in order to fit enough hay in the barn without using up all the floor space.

One person would move a bale from the front of the truck to a person on the back of the truck. Then, that person would lift one bale at a time to the one on the top of the stack, the top person would pile the bales up the stack one layer at a time. Because of all this lifting, we only remove only the top layers that are on the truck (about 80 bales). The base of bales on the truck assist the people lifting with a 12 foot height advantage to fill the top of the barn. It takes longer with more short trips in and out of the field to do it this way, but it saves on backaches.

After our helper for the day had left, the raking and baling continued out in the fields. The rush to get more bales for the next day was on. Day turned into evening. I broke away from the fields to do the evening cow chores. After chores, I went over to check if Mike was able to finish baling the field when I saw him driving the tractor with baler to the barn.

Broken part. Dang. Almost had this field done.

Until it was too dark to work outside, the rest of the evening was spent jerry-rigging a  make-shift part that will do until the end of hay season. Currently, there are a whole lot of pieces from the baler laying about the driveway. By morning, we should be able to get the baler back into working mode and again, and once the dew dries off, will be back at the business of making hay.

First Half of the First Field

It is always a good feeling to get hay season under way. But because the weather in the Pacific Northwest can change easily and without a lot a warning, we make hay in small parcels. That way, if the clouds roll in and we get an unexpected thunderstorm with an inch of rain, only a small amount of hay would be affected.

Last weeks forecast was for a long stretch of clear, dry weather up to 10 days of good hay-drying conditions even calling mid-90 degree temps. From the moment that Mike started mowing the first field, the forecasting had started to change from 10 days of 80 to 90 degree weather, to 7 days. Then to 6 days with 70 to 80 degree weather, to morning clouds several mornings for 5 days before light showers for several days.

Mike hedged his bets and only mowed the first half of the first field. As of last night at 8pm, we had all the hay harvested and stacking into the barn. Now I can take a moment to reflect on a small portion of the hay season that is complete and revel in the fact that the hay is high quality while I watch for rain clouds to move in.

It doesn’t take but a moment or two before I realize that this first portion of hay season was by far the easiest field. It is the closest to the barn, no fences to open/close/break. This field is the flattest and most square piece of property on the farm, the rest of the fields follow the meandering river and hillsides with steep slopes, ditches and sink holes from gigantic  ancient tree roots disintegrating far beneath the surface. We are currently only about 1/9th of the way through hay season.

I just went from being real happy about the current situation to come crashing down to reality in a hurry, but it still does not keep me from enjoying the daily farm activities and this life in Rural Oregon.

Echoes in the Barn

We try to cut it close around the here, but this year was just a little too close.

I’m talking about hay bales. We try to produce enough hay to feed our herd without needing to go buy a bunch of hay, while still keeping enough animals to use up all the hay we produce thereby eliminating the need to sell hay.

This year we missed the sweet spot by about a week, the barns are empty and we have had to do a little improvising. Mike mowed a portion of the hay field with the hay mower. This portion is the small neck of the field that is difficult to mow, rake and bale because it is just a rounded corner of the field where the old barn had stood. The hay equipment just doesn’t fit in the area very well to pick up the grass.

It seemed like a good idea because Mike wanted to check out the adjustments that he made to the cutting deck of the mower before starting in on the big field anyway, and the cows in the show barn are positive that they are starving all the time.

This last week we have been manually raking the rows of hay with pitchforks and loading wads of green grass into the John Deere Gator and hauling the loads across the county road to the show barn. The cows love the fresh mowed grass and are eating it up, literally. We estimate that we have moved 20-25 bales of hay this way, one Gator load at a time.

This extra work is a lot more difficult than moving bales or even dried hay, the weight alone of a pitchfork full of fresh grass dripping with rain water is surprising. Many times it would take two people tag-teaming the wad with a fork on each side just to raise and maneuver the thing into the back of the Gator. And we did this twice a day, once for each feeding all week long.

At the beginning of this task, I had told myself that the extra effort of man-handling the cattle feed would be good exercise and that I would be getting in shape for the actual hay season. Now I am just thinking that I cannot wait for the real hay season to start and put this part behind me.

I look back at how hay making was done in years gone by. Horse-driven mowers and wagons, long back-breaking days in the field with pitchforks, stacking the loose hay onto low trailers then unloading at the barn with the same forks. I just can’t imagine how tough hay season could have been, or how those farmers were able to do that task every year.

‘Oh give me bales, lots of bales, under a starry sky above–don’t fence me in…’ I think that is how the song should go, at least that is how I’m singing it today.

Field Number Two

 

The second hay field has now been mowed and has started the drying phase.

The cows had been watching outside the fence line during the first field just waiting for the chance to eat some of the sweet smelling hay that was being made. As we were moving the last of the equipment out of the field, we opened up the gates into the field and let the herd have their choice of all the edges and missed grass.

They seemed very content with this added pasture land. Until they noticed the grass in the next field that had just been cut. Once again they are standing at a fence line and wishing they could get into a field so full of a delicious bounty.

Sorry girls, this field is still a few days from becoming the next area to graze.

June Update

June has been a busy month. The weather, lack of mountain snow pack and low rainfall has been in the forefront of all farm duties. Unseasonably dry weather has prompted us to start hay season early by almost three weeks. The forecast is calling for 90- 100 degree temps for the next week and the grass will loose it’s quality quickly. It’s all hands on deck while the sun shines. We are carrying fire extinguishers and shovels on our equipment, just in case.

The crooked barn is almost gone and the permits have been secured for the replacement structure. Beginning construction has been delayed until hay season is complete.

Just a few days after our attendance at the annual logging operator fire danger training, a fire broke out on State lands just a few miles from the farm.

I detected a whiff a smoke about mid-day. By 2pm I could see smoke billowing up over our hillside. Neighbors were scrambling to determine what was going on. Thanks to social media and an alert Niece of mine, we found out the the Oregon Department of Forestry had been notified of the smoke early in the day with a 911 call by an alert individual.

By they time we knew anything was going on, the ODF had trucks, helicopters, planes and ground crews battling the fire that was in an area of dry slash. The ground affected had been a logging operation completed in early spring. Someone was using the land for recreation when the fire broke out. The slash/residue left after the logging operation was dried out from the unseasonable warm spring and became a tinderbox for the fire to take off quickly. The fire spread up a canyon and threatened to keep going.

Because of the quick response from ODF and local fire departments from many regions, the fire was contained at 67 acres. It was way too close for me.

Our logging project for this summer has been postponed because of the fire danger. We are not willing to risk the danger. There are always many other tasks we can do on the farm to keep busy until the fall rains come.