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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘baling hay

Trailer Appreciation

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Boy am I ever glad to have a trailer for the ATV again. This weekend I put it to good use hauling logs out of the woods and cleaning up failed attempts at round bales in our fields.

The neighbors who rented our fields this summer did not have much success trying to get bales out of it. I feel for them. There never seemed to be enough consecutive dry days to finish the job. Instead, the cut hay got soaked by rain. They tried raking it out in hopes of drying the cut grass, but then it rained on the windrows.

Eventually, they enlisted a beef farmer to claim the wet hay, because cows are a lot less picky about moldy hay. He created some relatively ugly looking round bales, maybe since he was working with old, wet hay. By the time he finally tried picking up the bales and hauling them away, five of them fell apart. He just left those where they lay, creating dead spots in our fields.

I guess that is the land owner’s responsibility.

My first challenge in removing the old piles was forking the heavy, wet, moldy hay into the trailer. The second challenge was figuring out what to do with it. I generally use old hay as natural fill, but none of the many spots where we could use fill are easy to reach.

The worst spot was along our property line behind Cyndie’s perennial garden. Instead of being able to dump the load all at once, I needed to empty the trailer one pitch fork-full at a time, carrying each about 35-yards through an obstacle course of low hanging branches and a single fence wire I needed to duck under.

I only bumped my head about 3-dozen times while making repeated trips in and out.

It is super to have the trailer again, but it doesn’t fill or empty itself automatically and it can’t navigate the obstacle course behind the garden. I guess I wasn’t thinking about how much work I have to do whenever I endeavor to use the trailer.

It has me thinking I should have given more thought to that desire to replace the one Cyndie sold.

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Written by johnwhays

September 16, 2019 at 6:00 am

High Points

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After work yesterday, Cyndie and I hopped in her car and drove up to the lake for the weekend. Leaving on a Thursday night makes for easy driving, in the absence of the typical weekend traffic headed north. Our route took us through some of the damage from last week’s storms that produced near-hurricane force winds and some baseball-sized hail.

It was fruitless to try to capture a representative photo of the large scope of broken trees for miles, but I snapped a few shots on my cell phone through the car window at highway speed.

It was a little easier to capture a sample of some building damage that hadn’t been covered up yet.

The extensive damage to trees was a really sad sight. It gave me a whole new perspective on the comparatively minor issues we are facing at home with a few dead or dying trees leaning across our trails. We’ve got it easy.

High point of the day for me yesterday was finding a neighboring farmer working our fields to finally bale some of the cut hay that has been left on the ground for weeks, repeatedly being rained on instead of properly drying out. The past week offered the longest stretch of dry days that I can recall so far this summer.

The second high point was getting a chance to watch portions of Stage 18 of the Tour de France on the subscription TV channels when we got here. At home, we only pick up what is publicly available through the airwaves, and bike racing coverage is minimal.

Two big mountain stages remain, today and tomorrow, and I am thrilled to be able to view all the drama as it happens.

Maybe it will be rainy here as the morning progresses so I don’t waste sunny lake time sitting indoors in front of the glowing screen getting my bike racing fix.

Honorable mention high point yesterday goes to the Coop’s pizza dinner we devoured when we got to Hayward. Oh, so delicious.

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Still Learning

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It’s been five years of horse ownership for us now, and we are still coming upon situations that baffle us. Yesterday, it was a fresh wound on Dezirea’s flank near the point of her hip. There was a dramatic vertical incision, and then a broad area on either side where the hair looks cleanly shaved.

I can’t imagine what it must have looked like when she got cut. Best guess is that she was rubbing up against something with a long, sharp edge. It’s possible that it was even something in the ground and she was rolling around and came in contact with the sharp edge.

We have yet to identify anything that looks like it might be the cause.

I would guess it probably gave her a bit of a jolt when she got cut. It seems likely to me that she would have recoiled or startled in some manner. Must have been a scene in the moment, but by the time we discovered it, she was as calm as if nothing was amiss.

Except for that gaping wound on her side.

We spent most of the day inside, out of the non-stop wetness around here. Dew point and air temperature have been hovering close together and the moisture doesn’t so much fall as rain as it just hovers in the air in a perfect mist.

The ground is thoroughly soaked. Our neighbor and part-time mail carrier told Cyndie that he was still planning to do a second cut and baling of our hay-field, but that was before this very persistent wet weather pattern settled over us. Next week is looking like repeating days of more rain, so I don’t expect there’ll be any activity in the fields for quite some time.

Since we chose to remain indoors, the opportunity to continue our momentum on decluttering was well served. Cyndie had already been through her closet, so I dug in on mine to catch up with her, and then we both went through dresser drawers.

Time to release some perfectly useable clothing back out into the world for the purpose it was designed to fulfill. I’m done storing these shirts and pants for years on end.

It is truly an exercise that rewards doubly. Our drawers and shelves change from over-stuffed to a much more functional order, and we give others an opportunity to actually wear this clothing again.

So, not only are we continuing to learn what is involved with owning horses, we are also still learning how rewarding it is to live intentionally aware of our surroundings and how rewarding it is to practice the art of reducing clutter.

You could call it the very definition of a continuing education.

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More Bales

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With all those fat windrows laying in our fields, there was more than enough for us to take a wagon load of bales for ourselves. It took a little creative arranging to fit them in the shed, with our recently purchased bales already stacked to the ceiling, but we found a way to make them fit.

Jody successfully completed baling the last of the windrows, leaving our fields with the clean look of being freshly cut.

Cyndie climbed the mountain of bales in the wagon and heaved them out for me to stack.

We won’t need to go to a gym to get a workout, that’s for sure.

There’s nothing like putting in a full day of work and then following that up with an intense effort of throwing more than a hundred bales in the July heat.

Since we wanted to keep bales from our back pasture, I had some time to kill while Jody finished filling one wagon with bales from the hay-field. I took advantage of the time to turn and rearrange our composting manure piles.

While I was nearing completion of that task, Cyndie called me to meet a neighbor who volunteered to take our miscellaneous metal scrap that was slowly accumulating. That was a wonderful happenstance, allowing me to clean out a pile of ugly metal trash that we’d piled up over the five years we’ve been here.

It was a rewarding three-for-one night of accomplishments that left little time for much else.

Dinner didn’t happen until 8:30 p.m., and bedtime was a little later than usual, but we were buoyed by the satisfying accomplishments we’d achieved.

Once again, we are feeling happy to be done with stacking bales for a while. This time, that joy should last for a much longer span of weeks.

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Written by johnwhays

July 25, 2018 at 6:00 am

Incremental Headway

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Baby steps.

With visual progress toward our goal of getting our hay-field cut underway, we are experiencing a noticeable easing of stress carried in our bodies and on our minds. I wish it were enough to offset the ongoing feelings of dread over the bizarre happenings lately with the leader of our country bashing our allies and being overly friendly with despots.

Our Homeland Security touts the mantra that if we see something, we should say something. Um, we are all seeing it, and plenty of people are saying something. Why can’t anyone stop this ongoing governmental train wreck underway?

I try to compartmentalize, in order to carry on with my immediate world of influence without being entirely distracted by the national despondency, but I’m not fooling many people with my feeble attempts.

Seeing the three measly cut rows of our field being baled was a sweet minor victory for us. It looks so much better than the weedy field it was becoming.

Then we walked back up to the house and I spotted this:

The siding is sagging on our bird house.

I kind of like the look. It gives it added character.

But, in that moment, it felt like the teeter-totter of our experiences had just flipped from hopeful to gloomy in way too short a time.

Really? Even the bird house is falling apart?

I blame it on the sorry state of our government.

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Written by johnwhays

July 19, 2018 at 6:00 am

Baling Hay

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It was an epic day focused on hay yesterday, and the weather was ideal. We probably could have cut one day out of the process, but some of the bales might have bordered on still having too much moisture in them, so waiting allowed me to work the day-job on Thursday and then pack the bulk of the work of baling in about 12-hours of effort yesterday.

I started the work in the morning using George’s rake behind our tractor to create the windrows. My skills, and thus, confidence, were much higher than last year, but I still haven’t figured out the ideal pattern for our irregularly shaped field. DSCN3642eIt took me until half way through the job to discover I was making it harder on myself by dragging the rake along the previous windrow. If my steering is off the tiniest bit, the rake will catch the row I just created and mess it up.

If I simply rake from the other direction, I am raking the untouched grass with a clean space between me and the previous row. That provides much more room for normal variations. Duh!

While waiting for George to arrive with the baler, I hustled to move the remaining bales from last year that were stored on the right side of the hay shed, in order to make room for the new bales we were about to create. Hustling to exert yourself is not really well-advised when you have a long day of effort ahead on a hot summer day. I think I threw myself out of balance, probably getting too hot while also still trying to figure out a reduced-sugar diet. Getting the right sugar balance is proving to be a challenge for me.

When George arrived, he mentioned that he had forgotten to grease the baler, so I volunteered to hoof it back to my garage to get my grease gun. After that long, hurried walk, while chatting and watching him hit the multitude of grease fittings, I felt myself growing sicker and sicker. DSCN3646eI got light-headed and nauseous. It took almost too much effort to walk all the way back to the house after he started baling, where I could cool off and taking in some sugar and fluids —which was a challenge since I was also fending off the nausea.

I never really felt fully back on top of my game, but recovered enough to function and returned to help with the hardest part of all: tossing bales. Cyndie stepped up heroically and moved more heavy bales than I could believe, heaving them around to unload the wagon while I stacked them in the shed.

We weren’t able to unload fast enough to get the wagon back out to George by the time he could have used it, so he just let the last bunch of bales lay on the ground and we drove out to pick them up at the end. I haven’t counted yet, as we finished after dark last night, but I think we got another high yield off our little plot.

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George graciously returned after needing to rush home to feed his animals, and helped us stack bales in our shed to get them off the wagons. Cyndie served up dinner for us all around 10:00 p.m. and we got a chance to celebrate the huge effort of summer: putting up hay that will feed our horses all winter.

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Written by johnwhays

July 11, 2015 at 8:46 am

Never Dreamed

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A few years ago, I had no clue about how much my life experience would be changing by the middle of the year 2014. Yesterday was the culmination of a possibility that bloomed after we bought our new property in the fall of 2012. I found myself out driving my tractor in our field, pulling a rake to create windrows for baling hay. What a kick. A very humbling kick that I never dreamed I would be experiencing.

DSC03238eFor the life of me, I couldn’t figure out how to make this raking work the way I wanted. My instructions from George were pretty basic, and he rode with me as guide for about two passes, before heading home to trim some horses. He’s a farrier, you know. One big challenge with the rake he brought over is that you aren’t able to back up, and it keeps raking while you reach the end of the field and have to turn around before the fence.

Turning around was a trick, and the goal of creating straight, single rows repeatedly evaded me. It will take a few tries to figure out how to manage the shape of this field. Ed, the man who cut it for us last week, had never been on the field before and just picked a pattern which suited him. George and I started down one fence line and then he suggested I just continue that line, but it ended up putting me across many of the rows Ed had cut.

The result of my “student driving” exercise made for a pretty crazy sight, but George was kind and soldiered ahead with his baler to make it work, despite many areas where the hay had been tumbled into piles instead of rows.DSCN2123e

The problem with the piles is that they would plug the intake and George would have to stop and climb down to pull grass out or kick the piles into place as prevention.

We both feel our system will improve as we figure out an optimum way to work the odd shape of this field. There is more to it, though, than just the irregular shape, because it is also not flat. Navigating up that hill becomes an increasing challenge as the hay wagon gets heavier and heavier with bales.

As always, needing the field to be dry enough to work is a primary factor.  George got stuck several times, and I needed to push the back of the hay wagon with my tractor to get him moving again. The one that surprised me most was on higher ground, where his back wheels sunk into what must be a ground spring where water pushes up near the surface. It seems like an illogical location for a soft spot.

Now, after days of stacking purchased hay in our shed, we have two more wagons full of bales that need to be stacked. It is a LOT of work, but it is a labor of love.

Especially for the horses. They love having us stock piling all these bales where they can see and smell them.

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Written by johnwhays

July 20, 2014 at 8:13 am