Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘hay

Exhausting Effort

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Yesterday was an unplanned effort that turned into an all-day haul. This is how it came about…

We were looking to double the amount of hay we have stored for the winter in our hay shed. Using just our pickup truck to move 41 bales at a time over the summer, we had accumulated under half of what we are comfortable having for the winter months.

It made most sense that we should find a trailer to haul more bales per trip, so Cyndie contacted our neighbor.

His immediate response was, “Not right now.”

He had a car loaded on the trailer and didn’t want to take it off. Maybe next week, he said. Okay, we can live with that. Then a day later, after I had spent half a day covered in spider webs and dryer lint (the hose venting to outside needed replacing) and half a day mowing and cleaning the mower deck of moldy grass clippings, I was desperately looking forward to a long soaking shower.

The second I turned on the water, Cyndie said our neighbor just arrived to drop off his trailer and wanted to show me some details of the hookup. Surprise! She told him I had just stepped in the shower and he said he would be waiting down by the trailer.

I barely got wet, then dried off and jumped into clothes so I could hustle down to greet him.

He generously provided his ball mount attachment to fit the coupler and guided me through all the safety connections. We are so very lucky to have him for a neighbor.

With trailer in hand, we suddenly had a different itinerary for our Saturday. We ended up making two trips to transfer a total of 240 bales of hay for the day. That involves stacking 120 on the trailer, strapping them down, anxiously driving to our place, unloading 120 bales, lifting 120 into place inside our shed, and then driving back to do it all again, a second time.

Keep in mind, the bales appear to get heavier with time, as our bodies fatigue. The second batch of bales are harder to lift, and I need to climb higher in the shed to stack them on top of the first load.

Since we were trying to fit our two loads into the hours our hay seller was available –basically, the hours in a day– this effort came with nary a break. As I finished stacking the first load, Cyndie hustled up to the house to put together sandwiches for a lunch we could eat in the truck at 1:00 p.m. while driving back to pick up the second load.

After a non-stop day awash in dusty, scratchy hay, I was looking forward, even more than the day before, to that long soaking shower to calm my itchy skin.

It was a soothing finish to a full day of exhausting effort.

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Written by johnwhays

October 1, 2017 at 8:27 am

Adding Bales

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We made a run to our favorite hay supplier after I got home from work yesterday in the high heat of the day.

Our little truck fits 41 small squares per trip, which isn’t much, but turns out to be a good quantity for ease of loading and unloading.

We recently discovered that the bottom bales that we place on pallets in the shed are getting moldy from moisture that comes up from the ground. Since we still have a batch of old bales that the horses don’t like and that were bleached dry by the sun, we decided to use those for a base layer on the pallets for now.

I did an accounting of inventory and discovered we don’t have as many on hand as I assumed, which I guess is what happens when you only buy them in small pickup loads per time.

Somehow, the horses keep eating, so that ongoing issue of the constant drain on inventory needs to be considered, too.

No matter how many bales we have, it always feels rewarding to finish the task of putting up new bales in storage.

Especially when the old truck survives another load without any problems. That poor beast has its best days behind it now. The rust is making inroads on multiple fronts, which always has us wondering what piece might fall off next.

Now it’s not just bales I worry about losing each trip on the way home.

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Written by johnwhays

September 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Near Miss

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Are you as amazed as I am that our three chickens continue to survive ranging freely around our property, despite our having done nothing different to protect them in the time since some predator decimated the flock of nine birds?

It almost seems counter-intuitive that something would attack the large group of birds, but now no critter has bothered with the three that remain. Maybe with such low numbers, it isn’t worth the trouble of stalking them compared to the easier pickings of attacking a large flock.

None of this factored into Delilah’s thinking yesterday.

While Cyndie and I were unloading bales of hay from the pickup and stacking them in the shed, we let Delilah hang out with us to watch. Cyndie had hooked the leash to the front of the truck.

Meanwhile, the three chickens wandered over to peck at the mess of hay shrapnel that falls from the bales. I’m guessing they were growing used to seeing the leashed dog and didn’t feel particularly threatened.

Everyone seemed to be getting along just fine, until Cyndie decided the charade had gone on long enough. She told me that she meant to shoo the chickens away and was planning to remove Delilah from the captive spot to take her for a walk and get her away from the constant tease of free roaming chickens, which surely was tempting fate.

Except that the moment Cyndie processed that thought, (when I think she may have indeed made some sound toward the chickens to back them off) Delilah exploded against her restraint and ruptured the webbing of the harness that held the ring to which her leash was hooked.

Delilah chased, the birds panicked, and Cyndie and I both screamed at the dog with all our energy. The chickens ducked the fence into the paddock, which slowed Delilah a bit, and by the time I got down off the stacked hay in the shed, the dog had paused her pursuit a short distance beyond that fence.

Was she really listening to us? Cyndie thinks so. She declared it a partial victory, because Delilah did choose to stop the chase and did, hesitatingly, come back to us. We were able to hook the leash to a different ring on her harness and Cyndie walked her to the house to confine her until she calmed down.

Disaster averted, but not for lack of trying.

Those three birds must have some special luck that they escaped unharmed again. Or maybe they have a cat’s nine lives. Yesterday seemed like the kind of ruckus that probably used up a life for a couple of our surviving birds.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Adding Hay

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Our original local hay source is back. Tom was the first reliable local provider of small bales from whom we purchased hay 3 years ago. At that time, we over-bought and ended up not needing more bales from him the following year. Then there was a wet year where he didn’t have any second-cut grass bales that met our needs.

We ended up shopping around.

This year conditions have been good for hay and he called to see if we were interested. Last night we hustled over to see what he was offering and ended up bringing home a truck-full. His bales include a larger percentage of stemmy content than our most recent supplier who Cyndie found through a local ad, but Tom is located half the distance away.

If our horses don’t reject Tom’s hay outright, we’ll probably put in a reservation for another 160 bales or so from him. We expect to be bringing in hay from three different sources this year, and would like to avoid coming up short before the winter season is over.

I think determining the correct number of bales needed for a year is more of an art than a science. We haven’t quite mastered the craft yet, but each year we seem to be gaining skills. It would help if the horses wouldn’t be so picky about eating what is served.

It doesn’t do a lot of good to have the hay shed filled with bales that the horses won’t eat. I’m told they’ll be less picky if they get hungry enough, but we haven’t seen that happen here yet.

We are offering the horses some test servings of the hay varieties we are putting up this summer to bolster our confidence on the new bales before committing with money and stacking muscle on further truckloads.

It’s a manner of practicing our artistic skills.

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Written by johnwhays

July 18, 2017 at 6:00 am

Better Sense

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It looks as though my shadow has better sense than me about taking a much deserved break in the midst of toiling over non-stop things to do.

After work yesterday, it was another trip in the pickup to fetch 45 more bales of hay. Tossing them off the truck and then hefting them back up, stacked high in the shed, was a little more exercise than I was planning to do.

Of course, the stacks get higher as I grow more exhausted, so I out-smarted the task by placing the last half-dozen on the lowest level for now.

I do have better sense than to over-tax my weary body on one particular activity.

I’m better off spreading the exhausting efforts across several days-worth of projects. After that, my body can catch up to my shadow and take a well-deserved rest for a few minutes on a Sunday afternoon.

About that time, it will be the beginning of another week and I’ll get to start the process all over again.

Luckily, the rewards for our efforts are plenty, and we are richly blessed in this paradise we endlessly tend.

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Written by johnwhays

July 14, 2017 at 6:00 am

Highly Effective

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I’m very impressed with the effort put forth by our three surviving chickens to hunt and peck all day long in an ever-expanding range away from their coop and beloved tree perch. It has me believing a full flock of the nine we once had would have been a highly effective insect control method.

Our two Plymouth Rocks and one Buff Orpington surprised me last night by showing up out of nowhere to hang out around me while I moved some hay from the shed to the barn. They subtly tagged along toward where I moved when I cleaned up manure in the paddock, and then followed me to the compost area.

All the while they keep scratching away and gobbling everything they uncover. Nonstop machines, they are.

Luckily, they followed me down to the chicken coop when I took some measurements for modifications. It was easy to get them inside for another day of re-training to their proper night perch. I’m feeling a new inspiration to find a way to accommodate the addition of new birds.

The hay I was moving is the most recent we purchased. By all our still rather novice understandings, this batch seems to be top notch. The horses will be the ultimate judges.

We have purchased old hay from this supplier before, which the horses took to without hesitation, so we are optimistic the fresh bales should be well received.

They look good, smell good, and have the right percentage of moisture. With the addition of new doors on the shed, we can now store the bales out of the bleaching rays of constant sunlight, so were are feeling a bit more at ease over keeping our horses properly fed for the coming season.

Just in time to allow us to put attention to getting more chickens and figuring out how to manage all the details of coping with the challenges of caring for them over winter.

What could possibly go wrong there?

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Written by johnwhays

July 12, 2017 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Beyond Me

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For me, building our chicken coop was a stretch. I’d never tried any construction project of that magnitude before, and I was choosing to work from found materials and without a blueprint. It was a small miracle it turned out as well as it did.

Now, Cyndie is telling me we need to modify it to have a divider that will allow us to introduce unfamiliar birds to the existing flock of three. Today, a functional version of her vision is completely beyond me. I have no idea how I will secure all the nooks and crannies with chicken wire to a point where two unfamiliar flocks of birds will co-exist for a while in that one coop.

On to something I can do. Yesterday, I put the old F150 to work doing double duty. First, it was a road trip to the cities to pick up a load of unwanted used pavers from a staff member at the day-job. Drew was nice enough to offer them up for free if I would go to his place and make them disappear.

I had a plan to use them on one of the muddy spots on our trail through the woods. Before I could get to that step, I needed to reclaim a pile of rock that I had stumbled upon when creating a path to the new chicken coop last year. There was an old rusty box stove in the woods that I believe was used to boil syrup. It looked to be generations old, and the area around it had some old busted cinder blocks and a pile of landscape rocks.

Those rocks would serve nicely to fill a spot in the trail that tends to puddle, so before setting the new paver pieces in place, I wanted to transfer the rocks.

The chickens showed up to help, but were almost too eager to get after the creepy crawling creatures revealed when I scooped a shovel-full. They were more interference than they were helpers, but they sure are cute to have as company.

While the hours of the day vanished, one after the other, I hustled to get the pavers moved out of the truck. We had an appointment to pick up a load of hay around dinner time.

Hoping to minimize the handling, I wanted to transfer from the truck to the ATV trailer so I could deliver pavers directly to the path in the woods.

After a cursory two trips of distributing pavers, I had a good start on the trail, but needed to stack the rest up by the shop for use at a later time. The appointed hay hour was fast approaching.

Given this morning’s new assignment with the chicken coop, I am thoroughly enjoying the mental ease and physical feasibility of yesterday’s projects. New hay is stacked in the shed and pavers cover the muddy trail.

Next time it rains I’ll be excited to walk the enhanced surface of the trail at the bottom of the hill.

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Written by johnwhays

July 8, 2017 at 9:31 am