The next piece of equipment that needs a bit of work is the Big Red Beast, my name for the old dump bed farm truck.
This old relic has seen a lot of use even before we bought it many years ago. It no longer is road-worthy and is only used to haul hay, rock and firewood from one part of the farm to another. Even with the small amount of use, something is always breaking.
The red cab sits on top of the engine. There is no kind of insulation and the driver sits in the metal cab in intensive heat. There has never been any air conditioning in the truck, but over the years the vent system fans corroded. To top that, most of the windows cannot be opened except for the driver side window which has to stay open so one can reach outside to open the door since the latch on the inside does not work.
When the truck was in better condition, I was able to drive it, barely. The controls for the gas, clutch and air brake are all very tempestuous and the only way I could push the clutch in was to pull the steering wheel for leverage while I stood to force the clutch to the floorboard. All I could manage was be 1st gear and reverse when I was lucky.
Things have deteriorated a lot since then, I am no longer able to even start the darn thing. Mike is the only one strong enough and has enough dexterity to maneuver all quirks, levers, and hinky fixes with finesse and brute strength.
I am relegated to stacking bales as they are dumped into the back of the truck by the field elevator.
I think, in fact I am certain I am getting the better job with all the fresh air I can suck in while hefting the bales into stacks in the back rather than cooking myself inside the Big Red Beast.
The forecast called for rain and the morning looked like a front was definitely moving in. We decided it would be a good day to work in the barn putting the parts on the bale wagon that we had ordered last week.
Looking out through the bars of the barn gate the rain had started to mud up the dirt road leading to the bridge.
About then a storm cell above us let loose with what looked like a fire-hose amount of water. The drops hitting the metal roof was so loud we could not hear each other talk or shout.
Within minutes the dirt road was filled with puddles, the grass growing in the hay field was flattened and we had recorded over a half inch of rain in less than an hour.
This amount of rain will push back the start time for mowing the hay fields, it will take more than a week for the ground to dry out under the grass. The rain also temporarily stopped our logging operation because the road is too muddy to even get to the bulldozer or the landing, and the bulldozer would not be able to go up the skid roads with it being this wet and slippery.
Concentrating on the hay equipment in the meantime will keep us busy in the meantime.
Preparing for hay season is more than just getting the equipment ready, the barns also have to be prepared.
My right hand helper moved the left over hay bales from one end of the barn to the other end. With this part of the barn cleaned out, we can re-stack the new bales into the area easily.
Getting to this point of not having too much hay left over yet still having enough for the herd is a task that is constantly monitored throughout the winter and spring.
Because of the very wet and cold first part of the year, we did need to purchase some hay to add to what we harvested in order to make it until this point. Moving a hundred bales or so is a small job compared to the actual hay season where we count bales in the thousands.
With this barn cleaned up and ready for the upcoming harvest we can move onto cleaning up the other two barns that are for hay storage.
Nothing appeared unusual when we looked toward the three outdoor feeders. Upon a closer look we noticed one of the calves had figured out that he could reach hay easier if he simply just stepped inside the feeder.
This calf had been sneaking into the feeders over the last week, but I had not caught him at it until this day. He is pretty good at keeping the operation undercover, he only stays in long enough to grab some good bites that was left from the herd and then he steps back out before laying down or pooping inside the feeder.
When he noticed us looking at him, he casually stepped out and meandered over to the herd like nothing had happened.
Peach, who was born on January 3 and Respect, who was born on March 25 are getting along wonderfully well. Peach has been showing Respect how to sleep outside in the pasture, chase birds and as shown in this picture, eat hay from the manger.
Peach grabs large clumps of hay while Respect is still nibbling on stem at a time, but soon both will come into the barn at feeding time as quickly as their mothers do.
Respect tries to show his dominance as a bull when around Peach. He will scuffle and bump heads. Peach takes it good-naturedly and just pushes him aside when she tires of his game.
I have a tendency to lean. Sometimes while doing the morning chores out in the show barn, the stack of hay becomes a tempting respite from the care and feeding of the cows.
This is also the barn where I feed the cats breakfast and dinner so I am never alone. The felines are always quick to remind me if their bowl is empty.
This day, the cats had already been fed. The cows are busy munching hay and I had a few minutes to lean and enjoy the soft sounds of the barn.
Leaning into the hay, I took a moment to contemplate the day. The cats noticed my stillness and came to investigate.
That is Momma cat sniffing the pom-pom on my wool hat. Tobias is busy sniffing Momma, and Boaz is posing for the picture.
This unusually cool and damp (gross understatement) January and February is causing problems for our cattle herd.
Our square bales of sweet hay that we harvested last summer, will not last until the weather warms enough to let the spring grass grow. With the lack of forage, we had to go purchase hay from some of our Willamette Valley neighbors. These round bales weigh about 700 lbs. each and take some levering to unwrap the plastic mesh that encases each one.
It took using the pickup and stock trailer 4 trips, each load carrying 4 bales, to replenish the 3 barns with enough hay to last through the season. At least that is the hope. Most farmers around the area and into the surrounding Willamette Valley are now out of hay for sale. Warmer weather and growing season can’t come too soon.
There is a lot of shoving and swearing involved just to get the darn things to roll over in order to get a 70 lb bale worth of feed off the massive thing, but this should provide enough feed until the grass fields produce enough to feed the cows.
The cats are enjoying the bales especially as the morning sun fills the barn and warms the top of the hay. This also puts the critters at my eye level so that when I walk by, the cat can get my attention easier and petting is doled out accordingly.