Typically, by now the hot summer days would be baking the ground and causing lots of dust on every road and trail. We were fortunate to get our hay crop in when we did because the last two weeks has had many muggy days with light rain showers or thunderheads looming. We are still lower than average for the total amount of rainfall for the year so this dampness a welcomed opportunity for the newly planted seedlings, and for the fields.
It is a different story for those who have not yet been able to get their harvests completed. In the valley, the grass seed farmers have had their fields swathed (cut down) during this stretch where the crop is supposed to be drying, but the ongoing moist days are keeping the ground beneath the wind-rows damp and threatening to rot the crop before the drying can occur. The farmers are starting to doubt their ability to get the crops harvested.
Our far field that was the first one cut for hay, has greened up considerably with the moisture so we moved the main herd back over there to eat the new grass rather than letting it go to the resident elk herds.
There is enough new growth out in the field and around the brush at the tree line to keep the main herd busy for a week to ten days. These are valuable days that we will not have to feed the limited supply of the harvest from the barn, and easing the worries about the harvest being enough to supply the cows through the winter months.
It seems like most of the day-to-day normalcy of farm life goes on hold as soon as hay season begins. It is a scramble just to do enough laundry to get by as the fields take center stage. The lawn does not get mowed, the cows only get a cursory glance every now and then just to make sure everyone is still hanging around and the garden is dismissed entirely except for a quick vegetable grab to make salads.
I finally got the chance to do some weeding in the garden. Over the last couple of weeks my radishes went to seed, the peas filled the pods and the plants died, I have so much lettuce that I filled a wheelbarrow and fed it to the cows in the show barn and the strawberries are kaput.
But on the good side the green onions are now ready to eat, there were a few ripe cherry tomatoes, the potatoes are blooming, beans are setting on and should be perfect sized for eating by the end of next week along with zucchini and hopefully a cucumber.
And then I got over to the kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, red and green cabbage area of the garden. While most of the cabbages are starting to form baseball sized heads, one oddball is not conforming to cabbage standards.
This one red cabbage plant is making several flower bundles where a head of cabbage should be forming. I broke off the middle one and ate it finding the familiar cabbage taste in flower form. Perhaps this was a hybrid seed accidentally slipped into the packet during packaging. It reminds me of the broccolini that is long single strands of broccoli so I think this should be called cabbagini. I may even try to let it go to seed to see if I can harvest this goofy looking cabbage.
With much trepidation over the weather forecast for the last week, we had been waffling between mowing and not mowing the last and smallest hay field. It becomes an intense workout of being ready to go yet not going for days on end. Finally with the promise (or simply hope and desire) that the weather was going to warm and hold clear for the next five days, Mike mowed down the thick, wet grass during a rain shower that was supposed to be the last one for a good stretch of time. Continue reading
Mike opened up the gate so the main herd could drift into the large, harvested hay field. The cows have been off this patch of pasture since early spring when we intentionally kept them out so the grass could grow tall enough to harvest.
The more senior cows know the drill and get right to eating the leftovers from the harvest. The dropped spears, the missed edges, the get-aways that didn’t go through the baler. There are many bales worth of forage for the herd. The calves enter the field like it is summer break from school. They dart, cavort, head butt other calves and run circles around the diverging herd with wild abandon. The calves are old enough now that the antics of the little ones do not upset the mother cows like it did when they were smaller, more delicate and possible prey for the coyotes that hang around. Continue reading
We have finished with the hay harvest on all the fields except the very last 6 acre field. This horseshoe shaped piece is surrounded by the meandering river on all but about sixty yards across the small neck of the field. It stays damp from the effects of the river and grows the thickest grass on the whole farm. It is the field that must have the most sunlight and warm days to complete the drying process so we can only cut the grass when the forecast calls for at least five days in a row with optimum weather.
For the last week, the forecast has called for rain and possible thunderstorms to roll through the area for anywhere between two to five days so we are on hold with harvest.
The equipment is all tucked into the barn for the time being while nature takes time for a cleansing rain.
The mower will be hooked up and can start even while the grass and ground is wet as long as the following five days allow for the grass to dry. In the meantime, we will let the main herd into the fields that we have completed so they can do the cleanup work on the missed edges, where wind whipped the grass out of the wind-rows and around the edges along the fence lines. That should keep the herd busy while we finish off the hay season with the last 6 acre field.
Three barns are needed to store hay and equipment. The hay storage in this barn is beginning to add up with five stacker loads so far. All this undercover area is a prime spot for storage and we have to use it wisely. By the end of hay season this middle section of the barn should hold enough hay to feed the main herd through the winter, the bale wagon, the logging Caterpillar, ten half-cord cribs of firewood, the wood splitter and the Gator.
For now, the good weather held for us to get about halfway completed with our hay season. With threats of several days of showers and rain, we are holding off mowing down any more grass until we have a good stretch of warm, dry weather.
The second half of our hay season needs extra drying time once mowed because these fields are enclosed by trees that line the meandering river. The shade from the trees keep these fields damper than the open fields and they tend to have early morning fog that hangs around longer that the bigger fields. Seems like a good time to take a break from hay for a few days.
The bull pen is dramatically down from our original eleven critters we had for sale in early spring. After a slow start, bull sales are picking up for this year.
Last week, two bulls #30 and #32 were delivered to a large cattle ranch in Idaho, and Thursday Mike delivered #33 to a farmer in McMinnville.
Still left for sale are #31, Coffee and #25 Turbo… Hold it, Hold it. I spoke too soon, we just had a call and a farmer from out by Rainier who is showing up today with his trailer ( we always get kind of giddy when a buyer says they is bringing their stock trailer, it is code for being a serious buyer with plans on putting something in the trailer before going home). This farmer believes he wants the older bull, #25 Turbo (this is the one that has been at a neighbor farm doing grass control duty with a few of our other cows). One bull or another, we will only be down to one bull for sale after today.
Mike is now a believer that all we have to do to sell bulls is to get busy into hay season. Seems like there is a lot of juggling going on to get inquiries answered, bulls loaded and delivered and hay bales made all at the same time.