Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Knock on Wood

We are still doing our twice daily chin checks here at the Small-Hold. Every morning and every evening we are making sure that no sheep have that tail-tell swelling under their jaw line indicating the Barberpole worms are back.  So far we have been worm sign free for well over a month now even with all the rains we been getting but we have spent some money to keep it that way.

We had to order in every type of wormer we could find so we had enough rotation to catch the worm eggs that become immune to the last treatments. We had to dry lot the flock, which meant buying hay after we ran out of our own, and keeping the flock locked up away from the green grass they love. We really upped our mineral and salt lick stations in the barn lot. This last seemed to help some as well despite the fact that copper is not a mineral generally used in sheep licks. We also used some horse minerals to get a bit more copper out to the flock.

All this has sorely cut into my progress time on other projects. It takes much more time than you would think to physically examine 50 some-odd sheep twice a day. Along with the heat and humidity just another excuse to not get started on something it seems. Yet it appears the threat has either been greatly reduced or eliminated by our endeavors or perhaps the natural cycle finally catching up to the damned worms.

Hopefully by next year I will have more pasture to rotate the ewes in and out of when/if this issue hits again.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

So Sad It's Funny Now

Yesterday was a picture perfect day. Cool temps, nice breeze, low humidity. It was wedged in between rain on Sunday and rain today of course. Overall however it can at least be said the temperatures have dropped by about 10 degrees or so which is making it a lot more bearable than the constant rain and heat of a few weeks back.

The forecast for the next 10 days also show one day with a graphic of the sun peeking out from behind a cloud. The other 9 days are all thunderstorm days. I can only hope this changes relatively quickly and things get back to normal or I will never have a chance to cut the back hay field. We should be high and dry this time of year with these constant thunderstorms a month old memory while we rejoice in less grass growth.

I did manage to get out and get the new coil put on the latest 8N purchase. After replacing the old one however the tractor still wouldn't start so I fiddled around with the distributor and when I put it all back together it fired right up. So I am not at all sure that maybe something just didn't get loose in transport and the new coil was not really needed. I went ahead and left the new one on and put the old one in storage, 8N's have a bad habit of throwing out their coils often anyway so I am sure I will have an opportunity to test it out in the future.

The beauty of this little 8N (not pictured I reused a pic of my 8N for the post) is that someone has slapped smaller rear wheels on her and replaced the thin front wheels with later model 100 series tires and rims. This lowered the back end a good bit which I didn't like at first but makes sense for a small garden or food plot tractor when coupled with the dual speed axle. It allows better range on a plow set up and/or tiller and fixes the ground speed issue that 8N's have when trying to use tillers in general. It's actually pretty genius once I got to playing around with the old girl. The dual speed axle 8N's are not all that common anyway and honestly are a lot more useful for those purposes than the single speed one I have. Either someone put a lot of thought into the set up or just tried to cut corners and got lucky I am not sure which.

At least now I can unhook the tractor hauling flatbed trailer from my truck and maybe try and get a day or two of fence work in before it's time to start mowing again..... Maybe.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sunday Reading - Wheeling and Dealing

I got the hay sorted and it looks like I lost about half the bales to mold. As I said though it isn't a total loss as I needed to replace the insulation bales I place around the exposed foundation of the house. I typically use 15 to 18 bales every other year for this and it just so happens I needed to replace them this year anyway. Using bales I know are molding inside makes the entire endeavor feel less wasteful somehow.

Today I went to an equipment auction a bit further afield than I usually travel in hopes of finding a deal on a better mower. I think my best bet is to shoot for a good used disc type mower with the drums that have the blades on them. They seem to be what the smaller operators and custom bale guys prefer around here.

Of course finding one small enough for my needs is a bit of a problem and I will have to get the hydraulics working on the diesel once again as well. I hate to admit defeat but I just don't know enough about those old sickle mowers to get the one I have working properly. It might be all I need to do is replace the front teeth but I am just not sure at this point and the advice I got from some of the old timers hasn't worked for me either.

The auction trip was a bust for appropriately sized mowers but while I was at one ring waiting for the implement auction my dad had one of his crazy "What were you thinking" moments and bought another friggin 8N tractor. I don't know why except he really enjoys flipping them I guess. The one he bought seemed to be in pretty good shape. It started and ran nice and had very little rust and only a little bit of damage to the left running board and some obvious repair to the rear fender. Paint looked good, engine sounded great. Then I got the thing home and started hearing some lifter rattle and the coil is obviously bad on it as the thing died when it got hot and refused to start. I couldn't get a spark off the distributor after that either.

Not a big deal as I have a coil I can slap on it and I am sure we can turn the thing over for a quick profit. Dad's excuse was we needed to finance the trip. Eventually if he keeps doing that we are going to get burned though but after that old Ballarus diesel tractor I flipped for him and made almost 5K off of he keeps seeing dollar signs whenever he goes with me to an auction and he hates to come back from one empty handed. He even set up a business account at his bank and is keeping books on all our sales and professional stuff like that.

The best part about the little 8N he bought though is it is one of them with the two speed axle which are kinda hard to come by these days. They make perfect little garden tilling tractors as the single speed axle types have a bit too much ground speed to till properly.

So now all the hay equipment is put up again and I have a couple of weeks to figure out the mowing issue and sharpen the brush hog blades in case I have to got hat route again with the next cutting. Next up is the big hayfield that will need baling which I plan on doing the next time the forecast allows. I hope it turns out better than this last batch.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Hayfield Follies 2016

Boy this has been the most uncooperative, wettest, most miserable Summers I can ever remember in all the years I been attempting this homesteading/sustaining thing. I even thought last year was bad but at least the rains stopped by July last year. 2012 was horrible because of the drought but the upside to that was I had plenty of time to get stuff done.

If there is one bright spot to these almost daily rains this year though it would be that it's been great for the bees at least.

Anyway back on topic. The hay field. If you remember where I left you I had managed to cut the poor overgrown thing with the brush hog but suspected I had knocked more down than actually cut. Well more on that in a bit but my next move was to rake the wet mess over on Thursday afternoon. Well Thursday I was sent to Iowa and not really given a choice in the matter from work. So I had to rake the cut stuff over this morning then race the storm clouds to get it baled.

Well I got it baled and yes there was a lot of uncut grass mixed in there. It jammed the baler up twice. Thanks to the Good Lord and the inventor of the over riding clutch the jamming was not much of an issue but at one point the feeder with the teeth threw it's belt which required me to do some field repairs.

Nevertheless I got the whole mess baled before the rains hit. Although I was in the middle of putting the bales on the wagon when it did rain on me.

I put out 46 bales and could have done 60+ if I had a mower worth a shit but I was so concerned about the wetness of the hay I wasn't going to stack em in the barn for fear of combustion so I stacked em loosely on pallets and put a tarp over them to keep em out of the rain. As you can see I even propped the tarp up to add some airflow.

After dinner I checked the bales to see how hot they were and let me tell you they were burning up. I decided then to open up five or six of the least hot bales and feed em to the sheep outright and then break the stack and set the bales about just in case one does go up in flames.

The sheep loved the fresh hay after I broke the bales open and let em cool off a bit. They devoured every bit of it. The rest of this cutting is pretty much a write off though as far as foodstuff. We have another big storm coming in as I type this and the bales are going to get soaked. No way around it. If they don't burn themselves up they will be a moldy mess within a day or two in this humidity and heat and if I keep em covered they are liable to explode.

It ain't a total loss though as I place about 15 or 20 bales of hay around the house and the bee hives each Winter so I will just use these bales for that this year. The chickens have pretty much destroyed what was left of the bales I had around the house from Last Winter anyway.

It would have been much better if I could have let this hay dry another day or two but it just wasn't in the cards this year. Still this is my fifth cutting since I started my baling operation the first one I have lost so I am not complaining. It happens. I learned a bit more about my old baler, did some field repairs and have a better handle on just how far I can push the old girl too.

Now if I can just find the time to finish the restoration job on the diesel tractor. The front part is starting to look pretty good but the main chassis and back fenders are still ugly.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sheep Nibble. Horses Rip

Was a long day today and I used every bit of daylight I had and then all of the evening into dusk pushing to get as much mowing finished as possible. For the first time in months I am almost completely caught up on mowing except for a little trimming yet to do and some major weed control around some buildings that is going to have to be done with a hand scythe. No way I can get the brush hog in close enough and it's too thick for the smaller riding mowers.

The motto of the day was "All hands on deck" as there was a job for everyone this fine day. I put my Dad on one lawn tractor, my Mother on the other one and my son with the weedeater as I ran the brush hog. I was about halfway finished with the front pasture when I remembered to take a couple pictures of the overgrown, weed choked mess that pasture had become.

Most of the tall stuff you see in the two pics is Milkweed, Pigweed and some other stuff that the sheep actually like but the super picky useless nags of pasture destruction (ie horses) won't touch. However there is a couple of large concentrations of Jimson weed which is particularly toxic to just about everything. I never have problems with the stuff in the sheep pastures but it is a real pain in the horse areas. I had it under control until these awful daily rains started and it grew like well... A weed.

A curious thing though I did notice. Honey Bees LOVE Jimson Weed blooms. Up until this year I never allowed it to bloom so much to see honey bees working the flowers but they have been all over it the last two months.

Above is the trumpet-like flower and below is the seed pod when opened and dropping the seeds.

I swiped those pics from Wikipedia so you would know what I am talking about. It's a pretty interesting plant and is actually cultivated for medicinal purposes in places but it can be deadly to livestock if eaten and will shade out more desirable plants and grass if left to grow. All the other weeds the sheep will take care of on their own but this one I needed to get cut before the seed pods ripened.

Here's a shot toward the neighbors after I got the field mowed. The one spot of tall stuff  on the right is actually around a concrete pad that I think originally held an old grain silo. My plan is to cover it for shade as a shelter when I fence this section in for the sheep. The spot on the left is around the loafing shed where I will have to cut it with a hand sickle.

And here I exposed the old equipment/loafing shed and can now see one of the useless horses hanging out in there. I actually had to gently nudge one of the pain in the ass horses out of my way with the weed guard of the tractor this afternoon because it wouldn't move. It just stood there looking at me like "I dare ya". The horses really hate it when I am on the big loud iron horse because they know I will run into them if they don't move. Still they have to try and test me every chance they get.

So day one of the great hay gamble is done with no rain and the top is actually drying nicely. I am going to try turning it over tomorrow late afternoon or early evening and shooting for baling it Friday. Slight chance of rain tomorrow and so far they are saying 20% for late Friday....

Haven't come up snake eyes yet...

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sickle Mower Fail

Well it didn't rain today but I am pretty sure it did last night at some point because there was too much water and everything was too wet for it to have just been dew.

Despite this and the fact that we have been getting hit with rain almost every day in some form I am out of time on the front field. I had to get it cut today. The next four days are only showing minor chances of rain. I know it's a gamble and not one I normally would take but I have no choice this year it seems.

So if you remember right I was working on the weak link of my haying operation which is the old Massey Sickle Bar Mower. The first pass I actually thought I had made some improvement and actually rendered the thing usable. However it quickly became obvious that I had only managed to delay the inevitable and the old thing started jamming up and would stop cutting about every 20 feet.

Let me tell you getting off and on the tractor and unjamming that POS was about to give me a heart attack. I got about a 3rd of the field done and then just said "Screw it" and went and hooked up the brush hog. Brush hogging the field will reduce the yield by a good bit but it's better than being in the hospital I guess.

When the old sickle bar mower worked it worked well but it would start jamming up on the end and work it's way down until the whole thing was just pushing the hay over and not cutting. Even using the Brush Hog I am betting I simply laid a large chunk of the available hay down and didn't get it cut. Will make raking it a pain too.

I should have taken a before picture but it wouldn't have shown much except a wall of Johnson grass about 8 or 9 feet tall really. There is still a lot of Brome and Alfalfa in spots out there but mostly the Johnson grass has taken over the edges and hidden it. Johnson Grass makes OK hay but it's really pretty good pasture I must say even though I hate the stuff in the garden and other places I don't want it. It's incredibly hard to kill and the sheep like eating it which is a good combination for pasture grass.

So the dice are rolled. Will the wet ground and humid conditions allow what I got cut to cure in time to bale it up before it rains again? Will playing the 90% odds that we won't get any rain (this coming from the accu-guess weather people BTW) pay off? Will my rake and baler continue to work properly even if the other odds fall in my favor?

The way this Summer has been going..... I wouldn't bet on myself to be honest.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Well Guess What?

Yep you guessed it. It's raining..... AGAIN.

In August.

At least it was relatively cool today though and was pretty nice napping and sleeping temperatures.

Since I was shut out from doing any one of the million things I need to do outside I decided today was a good day to attempt to tackle that ever broody hen once again.

This time I am taking a play out of Sunnybrook's book and putting her in a kennel with her eggs and let the whole thing run it's course. Maybe she will feel better if I actually let her hatch one or two that live because every attempt I have made at breaking her of her broodiness has failed.

So I marked six eggs. Three she was sitting on and I stole three from the nest next to her. Mrs.PP and I got the kennel ready with old hay and put the eggs in while I held the screaming pissed off hen. We put her in the kennel and she was so upset she didn't even notice she had eggs in there. Within a few minutes the eggs were buried under the hay. I opened the door and tried to uncover them and the broody hen shot out of the kennel like a greased pig so I put her eggs back in the nest and will try again tomorrow I guess.

So the forecast for the rest of the week is a slight chance (like less than 15%) of a thunder storm each day until the weekend. I am going to roll the dice and cut the front field tomorrow I think and hope I can mange to get it baled before it rains on it. I really can't wait any longer. The back field has gone so long now I doubt the hay is going to be worth much now anyway but I might try and cut it as well.

I was reading today where Louisiana is getting flooded bad and New York is under such a heat wave that electric lines are bursting into flames. Seems like screwed up weather is literally everywhere this year.

Maybe someone is trying to tell us all something?

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!!!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Sunday Reading - Still Way Behind

Although the rains have slowed down a little bit and we are getting the occasional cooler day now and then I am still in the middle of a huge catch up arc that seems to be never ending. As I have said over and over again this mostly involves constant mowing. Something I am of course going to be starting on once again as soon as I finish this post.

There just is no end to it this year it seems. Right now I should be out worried about whether the Goldenrod is going to be a big bloom this year, feeding raw wax into my solar melter day after day and lamenting the fact that all the White Clover is dried up. As it stands now it feels much more like late Spring.

The Barber-pole worm threat should be gone by now and I should be putting up hay constantly but instead I am looking at wet grass, storm clouds and still catching a ewe every few days to dose her again when she comes up with that swelling under her chin.

It's been a rough Summer here so far no doubt about it, with little gains and constant work just to keep from having too many losses. The only thing I can say that has been booming has been the amount of firewood added to the stash from all the trees that have come down or people feared would come down and having cut. Of course hauling it all has only added to the extra work and put me behind more.

So anyway back to work for me. Since the sun is actually shining right now you know where I will be. On the mower.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!!