Thursday, August 29, 2013

When Things Go Well

When the work goes as it should you can get a lot done.

We had a full day earlier this week. We started with chores, then coffee and breakfast.  After a fast glance at the paper to be sure nothing happened overnight that we needed to know we sent the ram boys out to the big pasture for the day.  Elderly Mr. Lincoln takes the lead.

And the others follow like high school boys pushing and shoving and horsing around. 

After seeing that everyone went out as they should we went to the lower barn, set up the weighing equipment and put all the ewes over the scale, checked eye scores and dewormed those who needed it.  We had done the rams and ewe lambs a few days prior.  It's too much of a marathon to do all the groups on the same day.  The sheep moved along relatively smoothly and we were done by shortly after noon.

A fast lunch of odds and ends was followed by going right back out.  Andy needed to unload the two wagons of oats from the day before, so the elevator had to be brought down to the grain bin, maneuvered to deposit the grain through the fill hole and then he had to position each wagon such that the grain would spill into the elevator hopper.  It doesn't sound like it would take that long but there is a lot of back and forth hooking and unhooking of tractors to get it accomplished.

As soon as the wagons were empty he headed down the road again with the combine to finish the oats.  The Amish were baling the hay that had been raked the day before.  I missed a picture of a very small boy gathering the hay but did get one later with a young man driving the team.  They were gathering the hay and bringing it to a stationary baler run off a gasoline engine.

The apparatus they had for collecting the hay was simple but seemed to perform its function pretty well.  It worked like a giant comb being dragged over the ground between the horses.

The hay gathered on top of the big teeth and accumulated in front of the wooden backstop.
Apparently the youngster I saw earlier had missed a few piles and this other fellow was going around gathering them up.
The day after we finished the oats Andy was able to bale the straw - 287 bales - and we'll probably 'store' it on the wagons since it's not quite so inviting to rats as it would be in the mow.  The combine didn't thresh the oats off as well as Andy would have liked so we know the bales will be attractive to rodents. 
The sheep were happy out in the pasture this evening when Holly and I took our walk.  These lambs near the fence were curious about us.

I kept catching this lamb in mid-chew.

Here's hoping for some more productive days ahead.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Green Behemoth

Andy's been working on the big old combine for the last two weeks replacing bearings, belts, chains, hoses, tines, fluids, dials...... let's just say that the darn thing ought to perform heroically out of gratitude.  It's kind of like Black Beauty - had a great first owner, then successively worse ones, then found a good home again in old age.  Let's hope it doesn't die of happiness.

Yesterday's humidity was blown away by the cold front that passed through and today promised to be sunny and dry.  Time to start on the oat field.  (And not have to wait on someone else's schedule - woot!)

Since the oats are down the road I followed the combine with my flashers on in case some idiot came roaring behind us just as we were dropping over the knoll.  At least the warning lights would give everyone a fighting chance.

The combine takes up a fair chunk of the road and lumbering along at a sedate eight miles an hour can't exactly dodge out of the way of fast moving problems.

Happily, we encountered no one.  Once in the field there was nothing to do but put the head down and try.

For the most part things worked fairly well.  If you don't count the fact that you still have to pull the emergency brake to stop it, or that you have to jump the battery from the truck if it's turned off in the field, or that the bars to adjust the tolerances between the threshing fingers are jammed with rocks, or that the tachometer stopped working..... stuff like that.  Those are things that are going to take more than a few days to fix, and the oats are ready NOW.  In fact, they are down to an impressive 8-11% moisture, so we know they'll keep in the bin just fine.

So two rounds of the field fill the combine hopper.........

And then it's pulled alongside the gravity wagon and augered into that.

Next year will be more productive.  The oats are light due to dryness at the wrong times and without the combine innards being able to be optimally adjusted there are oats left on the straw.  Still, there will be about three full gravity wagons of oats to then be run into the metal grain bin plus nice straw to bale for bedding.  Good eats for the sheeps! 
And while we were doing that, our nearest neighbors were having a small field of hay harvested by some Amish folks.  I certainly didn't do the scene justice - didn't want to offend the tiny youngster driving the team that pulled a hay rake by shoving the camera out the window at him - but it illustrates a kinship among all types of farmers......when the weather's good you get out there and DO stuff!
Here's to more good weather tomorrow!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Into August

Summer is marching on and we're into the middle of August.  Every day is busy.

Andy finished putting the new wire on the new fence posts.  It should last as long as we do unless someone drives a car through it.  Don't laugh - it's happened before.

We sold a load of ear corn.  One bin about fills the trailer and was a bit light this time, weighing just over eleven tons.  Another bin will go out next week.  The driver is a nice guy and helped Andy kick and shovel the corn down to the elevator when gravity alone began to fail.

It only took a couple of hours to fill the truck.

We managed to get some second cutting alfalfa raked and baled yesterday just minutes before it rained.  After this cold front passes there is a stretch of dry clear weather predicted so I'm sure we'll be cutting as much as optimism allows.

I skirted and washed a bunch of Cotswold lamb to go with some alpaca and laid it out to dry.  I can't guarantee there won't be a few dog hairs in the roving.  Sigh.

The Steuben county fair started today and I always demo handspinning for a few hours in the Agriculture Building.  It's the quintessential  'rural county fair' experience - the smell of barbeque and hot sugar wafting in the door, the announcer calling the harness races from the grandstand, 4H kids walking their livestock past the door on the way to the arena and lots of people circulating around the exhibits and stopping to ask questions about my wheel and fiber.  I shared the immediate area with a man turning bowls on a lathe, Cornell Cooperative Extention,  and the honeybee association.  Most kids were pretty good but I heard "Don't spin the bees!" more than once as turning the clear bee frame to see the other side morphed into giving the bees a turn on The Scrambler.
If the start of the fair wasn't a certain sign, nature is beginning to whisper that Fall is coming.  Spiders are getting bigger and making webs that show up more.  This one spans the doorway with ease.
Most telling of all, the goldenrod is blooming.
It's a lovely yellow and if you look closely at it you can see each yellow finger is made up of tiny individual flowers shaped like daisies.
Busy as one is, it pays to stop and peer closely at little things.  There's always a reward.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Stuff We've Been Doing

In between trying to make hay we continue to find lots that needs doing.  We had hoped to replace a sagging fenceline along the road last year but it didn't work out.  The man who has a high tensile fencing business is kept very busy and when he was available last year the sheep had just been rotated into the pasture bound by that fence so we had to postpone.  Earlier this year he was available but Andy didn't have time free to take out the old fence.   Now the timing works for everyone.

The fence clearly has seen better days and patches aren't going to be worth the effort any longer.  The silos aren't really leaning - I guess it was me :-0

First Andy went through and pulled all the staples holding the fence to the posts.  Then he went through and used the tractor to pull each post.
Wrap chain on post.....
Lift chain with tractor bucket and pull up post.  This one was in the ground a good two and a half feet.
Once all the posts were pulled Andy rolled up the old wire and carted it and the old fence posts away.  Then he used the flail chopper to mow down all the vegetation that had been growing on the fenceline so the fencing man won't be impeded.  Seeing the pasture without that fence by the road is really, really strange.  If feels just wrong, like walking down the street naked.
The sheep are grazing a pasture behind the barn.  When they've filled up on grass they come back up the hill to sit in the shade and ruminate.  The lambs are growing well but still like to hang out with mom.

 She's not growing up!  She's my baby!

 I've managed to get some dyeing done.  This should be going to the mill this week.  I'd like my booth shelves to be really full at the fiber festival.

The purple coneflowers are starting to bloom.
Brother and sister barn kitties, Alexi and Natasha. 
We do not care for flowers.  The mouses and the birdies, yes.  And some kibbleses.
I don't really want to know all the stuff they've been doing.