Monday, September 4, 2017

Tractor hates me

I am sure this will be a love/hate relationship. I am going to love hating the old tractor. I tried to get it started on Friday again.  It would not start!  It turns over great, the new battery is doing its job. I tried throughout the day, three times with no success. I even brought Annmarie out to see if she knew something I didn't, still no luck. So I spent the day cleaning out the rest of the barn lot and removed all the animal poop from the lamb shed with my John Deere. 
I was frustrated we had just paid someone to come out to tell me I was an idiot and the tractor still would not start. While in the shower it occurred to me that the repairman had filled the old tractor with fuel from the wood shed. This was fuel for the lawnmower and could be a year old. I had asked around and had someone coming out to help me take a look at it when I figured I should drain out the old fuel and put in 92 octane instead. So I went out with two gas cans and took off the glass bowl filter chamber and realized that no fuel was leaking. The repairman had left the fuel shutoff valve closed!!  After spilling a pint of fuel on me I managed to get the glass bowl back on and the tractor started. I grabbed one large bale of hay and took it out to the cows. This was a request. The bale dropped three times. I was told that using the hay hooks on large bales doesn't always work. They cannot hold on. Happier now I went back in and cleaned up. 

Saturday I went out to move all the old bales out of the machine shop. I got the first one that was right on the ground. I dropped it twice. Next I have two rows stacked four high. I could not get the hooks to go into the top of the bale so I could lift it up. I tried twice then backed the tractor out and tried again. One of the problems with this old farmhand arrangement is lack of direct line of sight. The equipment is blocking your view. I thought I had the hook platform horizontal and ended up breaking out a 2x8 and 4x6 cross support beam out of the ceiling. It was over before I realized what had happened. I then tried to pull the bales over but I could only find one hook!  I lost my other hay hook.  So then I climbed up on top of the bales and tried to push the top two bales off without success. I finally gave up. We need to get those long spears made for the tractor so I can move the big bales. This will necessitate another trip to the metal fabrication shop plus a request for a quick turnaround time. I need to get hay as soon as Roundup is over. I also need a weight box for the back of the tractor with a few hundred pounds of weight in it. This is good news as we had researched new tractors and were looking at $28k for a set up to move hay. I am guessing but I think after repair work and fabrication and tires we will be close to $5k. Still a much better deal. We also need new front tires for the old tractor. The sidewalls are rotten and coming off in 1/4 inch chunks.  It won't be long before they blow out. I took pictures and will get them on order tomorrow. 


We have no pickup and trailer for this week. Annmarie asked me a few months ago if she could loan them out for the dress up parade during Roundup. I agreed without really understanding what I was agreeing to. So I have had to get all new brakes installed on the pickup. The pickup now has a brand new muffler. I cleaned out the pickup, probably the first time since we had bought it. It took me most of a day. We have new seat covers and floor mats in the pickup also. The trailer needed repairs as I had broken out the tail light holders and broken the license plate holder and broken the ramp holder lock. I took the trailer to our local metal repair shop and they welded supports into the tire wells, welded on running boards on the back half of the trailer so that when I hit something the trailer will just slide off. No more hooking the light boxes. They welded new light boxes on and moved the spare tire holder forward to the front half of the trailer. A new ramp holder was welded in just behind the tires accessible from one side with a pin lock. No way for me to drag it off when the trailer drags bottom when I am driving it through the creek or out in a field. The only thing left for the pickup is new tires, but I don't want to spend $850 -$1k for tires on a vehicle that gets less than 3k miles a year on it. My name is on the list for a set of used tires. There is a slight shake still at highway speed. I am unsure if it's due to the tires or if it is from the brake job or it just needs a front end alignment. I don't know and until I get new tires and do the front end alignment I will not be able to narrow it down. 


I owe an apology to Annmarie's father, Ted. He had knocked out part of the back wall of the machine shed with this old tractor. I thought this was just his illness making it harder for him to control the beast. After breaking two boards on my first attempt I now realize he had better control while ill than I do now. There is a definite learning curve. I am currently on the steep upward slope. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Ruh-oh!

I want it known that I had just worked all night and was trying to sleep on Monday when the tractor repair man came out. I realize that I had called on Friday for the repair but I feel that this incident should be given some leeway in its interpretation. I freely admit that I am new to this farm life thing and I have never before driven any old tractor. I freely admit that I am not a mechanic. These revelations should be taken into account when the reader reviews my actions. 
present the above picture as my defense. Can you honestly say you know where the gas cap is located?  I choose to believe that it is not that easy. Bottom line when the repair man came out the tractor was out of fuel!  He came back to the house and requested fuel. He was given a five gallon gas can and proceeded to fill the tank. The black cap nearest to the steering wheel is the actual fuel cap. I did not know this. He finished hooking up the hay grapple and testing it. I drug myself out of bed and went out to meet him to discuss all the operations of the tractor. We are already paying for a farm visit so I might as well get as much out of it as possible. I had him go over every little switch and lever to show me what did what. This turned out to be necessary as the power pto hydraulic lever was not getting engaged. So the hydraulics do work they are just slow without engaging the power pto. I would have thought it was just slow all the time. There is a small leak in the power pto device but I was informed if we tore it apart it would probably need a rebuild and parts would be almost impossible to find. So it looks great as is!  AnnMarie is rubbing this in every few days. The repairman got a good laugh out of it. Thankfully, the "fuel cap" I opened was the radiator cap and it was full of water so I did not put fuel into the coolant system!!  To top it all off AnnMarie was right!  It was out of gas. Since he was here I asked him to order a power disconnect switch. I will install it on the side of the tractor and to disconnect the battery you just turn the switch.   I will be moving the bales this upcoming weekend. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Damn tractor

I spent all day Friday with the new old tractor, the International. It was supposed to be a pleasant day. The tractor was running before I forgot to remove the negative terminal and allowed the battery to die.  The battery was charged in the old house and ready to go. I just needed to hook up the hay grapple and I could move the old hay and get the machine shop ready for new fodder. 
I installed the battery and could not get the tractor to start. This necessitated a trip to Pendleton to pick up a new battery. I bought the largest highest amperage RV/Boat battery I could find!  I returned home and installed it. It barely fit but with some pounding and jostling I managed to get it in place. 
The tractor started!  I was happy, now I just needed to get the hay grapple attached. Before moving the tractor I decided to try out the hydraulics for the grapple. Yep, the only hydraulic connections they did not check was leaking. I took a picture and drove to Pendleton, unbeknownst to me a picture is not worth a 1000 words when trying to get a common fitting for a 60 year old tractor. So I had to drive back home and attempt to remove the part. Nope, I needed an open end wrench of 1 1/16 inch size. I had to stop at my parents and borrow my dad's tools. I still think of them that way even if they are mine now. I went back to Pendleton again and asked for the part. They didn't have one!  Luckily, their competition did and I only had to wait 30 minutes for it to be transported to their shop. I installed it. 
No more leak present. I started the tractor and managed to get the pieces for the grapple lined up and had to shut down multiple times to get every part in place. 
I had one pin to attempt to get in place when the tractor refused to start. It turned over but wouldn't fire up. AnnMarie hollered from the front porch that it was out of gas. I checked by opening gas tank cap, and it was full. The gas gauge does not work. No go, I could not get the beast started. I put in a call to the tractor repair place and they will call me first thing Monday morning. It should work. I want them to come out to the farm. It cost me $250 to have it transported round trip last time. I am betting a farm call is cheaper than that. I am going to try it one more time on Sunday. 


One of the 90 degree fittings was cracked. 


Another day on the farm

I had the brothers out today. I had gotten up early to make sourdough waffles. The sourdough was prompted by us buying a new crock for our sourdough at a recent yard sale. This idea was nixed once we figured out our current crock had kept the sourdough in great shape with no mold with us ignoring the batter for a solid year. So I added more flour and water and left it out on the countertop to use in the morning. I got up early so I could make sourdough waffles. I had the waffle iron out and was attempting to find a recipe when I realized I should of done the recipe the night before. We have an entire shelf of old cookbooks. There is a lot of material to sift through. I found one that substituted the milk for sourdough starter. I followed this recipe but it was for pancakes not waffles. Unfortunately, I followed the recipe and ended up with bread dough. I had to add about a cup of milk to get the consistency correct. This means I needed a different cooking device. I could not find our electric griddle so I used the electric fryer. It's hard to turn pancakes in. They turned out good, definitely sourdough but a little heavy. Teenagers don't really care and add in a couple of chunks of ham and they were happy. They seemed hesitant to eat more till I told them the chickens get to eat all the leftover pancakes. 

The first item of the day was to sort off the cows. We have three young girls that need a few months away from the bull so they don't become teenage mothers. We shut and opened gates so the cows could be herded into the barn lot. The horses did not want to leave the barn lot so they got locked into the old lambing shed. They can watch everything from there. We walked up onto the back hillside with the dogs running all around. Once we got to the lower pasture we could see the cows on the bottom near the gate and the sheep low in the hillside ideal positioning to get the cows through leaving the sheep behind. I told the brothers we would stay up on the hill and the dogs would do all the work. I did preface this by saying Mouse was still a puppy and learning. He needs the off leash work to improve. What a mess!  I hollered. I cajoled. I brought the dogs back and told them cows not sheep. Mouse finally got locked onto the cows but every time I looked away he kept sneaking forward. Zeke was the real culprit, that damn dog ONLY wanted to chase the sheep. By this time he had already chased them up to the top of the hill and out of sight yet every time I sent him out to circle the cows he ran up the hill!  Twice I brought him back and made him look at the cows. We talked about cows. I pointed him to the cows while giving a voice command. He was not listening, more like totally ignoring everything I said or wanted him to do. This brought about a colorful oral tirade of high volume and duration. I had to jump the fence and walk out and direct the dogs from a nearby position. This took me almost 30 minutes to get the cows out of the lower pasture. My voice was hoarse and my throat sore. Unfortunately, I may have taught the brothers some variations of the English language they probably should not know. I had to choke down each dog a couple of times. There are times they make me crazy. They are so pack driven as a pair that you must be at the top of the food chain or they think they are in charge and do whatever they want. It makes me crazy. Yet when they figure it out and do what they are supposed to it's a breeze to move any of the animals. 
We got the cows in and sorted. Our new yard fence caused the corral gate opening to get about an inch bigger. The gate no longer latches. I figured this out while trying to sort cows. We got the bull and a few heifers away from the little girls. The little girls and their mommas are in the barn lot with the horses. Unfortunately this only puts one fence between them. I need to add a 50 yard section to the lower hillside so the bull will have double fencing separarating him from the teenage girls. This will have to happen in the spring. I will never be able to drive any T posts into the ground until then. 
As a side note Sunday morning we were looking at the cows out our kitchen window and AnnMarie asks me if that baby belonged out on the hillside. "Of course" was my instant reply. Guess who forgot that we now have a working gate by the horse feeders which was open and the gate leading into the ram pasture was open and the ram pasture fence is still down and cut up. So all the cows are back together again and need to be sorted yet again!  Some lessons are painful. 

We then moved into the barn to finish getting it ready. The brothers spread out the old hay all over the floor to use as straw. All the tools were moved into the milking area. The dogs were in the milking area trying to harass the kittens. Mouse was digging under the walkway and Zeke was trying to enlarge the hole along the back wall  I had just made for the cats. We found some scrap wood and screwed it onto the wall to create a cat sized opening that the dogs could not expand. We also cut a 2x10 to create a face on the walkway so when I clean it out with the tractor I don't push the mess under the walkway. This also gives another protected spot for the feral cats to hide. We have two feral fixed cats living in the barn. We are going to start housing them. Two weeks for two cats in a pen fed and watered them turned loose in the barn to live. We feed the cats in the barn daily. We need to get a handle on our mice population. 
The pallet stairs for side door are complete and we took away the rope door tie and installed an actual metal gate latch. 




We spent almost 1.5 hours just putting tools away and cleaning up. I even put all the tools away in the old house!  
It was hot and I was thirsty so when one of the brothers asked about the mini fridge I opened it up to show him it was just for extra egg storage. Low and behold there was a cold Gatorade in there!   I cracked that open and half of it down before someone asked me how old it was, 2012!  I polished off the second half in 15 seconds, smacked my lips and stated 2012 was a great year. No illness has occurred in the drinking of this expired beverage. I am thinking about stashing more drinks in this mini fridge! 
Usually the tools make it inside the door in a big pile. I am still missing my cordless drill but I am pretty sure I broke it early this summer. The barn is rough on tools. I need to order another one. 
We did a bunch of little projects.  We installed a new latch board with two holes so the corral is back in service. We covered three gates with wire panels so the sheep and baby cows cannot slip through the gates. 
We picked up an entire trash can full of loose hay string from all over the farm. 
We also removed our wooden trash can enclosure door and straightened the bottom hinge. It had gotten torqued in a wind storm several years ago. 

We installed a 3.5 inch ABS pipe downspout on the barn and then applied random sizes of wood in various locations to protect it from the horses. I am hopeful that this will stop 80% of the mud formed in the back alley way. 
We did go check on the plums in the upper prime pasture they are really close to being done. I suspect 4-7 days is all I that is needed. 

The boys ate Italian sausages on ciabatta bread with a plum for lunch. Good thing I had the 12 pack of sausages. I cannot even imagine what it is like to feed five teenage boys!! 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Yard fencing

Zeke had still been getting out of the yard!  Despite all the new fencing we have installed next to the barn lot. The last real section of yard fencing that needs to be replaced is behind one of our large front trees. I decided to just use cow panels as I had quite a few extra. Unfortunately, I just needed to find time to do it. Last weekend was Pilot Rock Community Days so we spent the morning hitting all the yard sales. We went to over 24 sales before noon.  We did not find any old glass marbles. I still need about 1.5 gallons to finish filling my display. We did find some cool old things that can be repurposed. We found a board with three mounted brass horse shaped hooks for $3.00. We removed the hooks and I replaced the plain brass hooks in our laundry room with horse hooks. We also scored some more laying hens!  One of the locals, our old telephone guy (who had to repair the buried line multiple times in our yard), saw us and said his adult child had purchased chicks at Easter and now had four adult chickens that needed a new home. All four of the hens were laying eggs so they would be productive immediately. 

We have lost 11 chickens to some unknown predator. No feathers and no bodies. They just vanish. Our working theory is it is a type of large bird or chicken thieves. Since we have been back from vacation no birds have disappeared. We were down to 13 hens and two of those are very broody so we are only getting 5-6 eggs/day. We were selling almost seven plus dozen a week. Now we are selling two dozen a week only. We had to tell all our regular customers that we are mostly out of the egg business for a while.  They brought the hens over and the hens have been attempting to integrate themselves ever since. 


I had decided that the rest of the fencing could not be delayed any longer as I was tired of Zeke gettting out. So on Sunday I ripped all of the offending section of fence out almost 60 feet. Once I got the fence out I used the tractor to drag the fence line clear. I also needed to drag out the old large dead branches that have been there the last seven years. 


I used the tractor to level out the area. This seemed simple but the tree roots kept getting in the way. I had to break out an axe and chop through three different roots. About half way through the leveling process I uncovered a hole!  A four inch iron pipe was sticking into a 12 inch round hole. I tried to see the bottom of the hole with my cell phone flashlight and could not see the bottom!  I dropped a piece of concrete from an old fence into the hole and it disappeared. I kept dropping concrete and dirt into the hole until I was able to get a dirt surface. It has disappeared but I am uncertain why the hole was there and what it did and how deep it was. It may appear at some time in the future. 

I strung a line across the posts and drive in T posts every 8 feet. I then placed cow panels across them. I attached them to the T posts and wired the ends together. The fence looks good! Now we will see if Zeke can get out. 






Friday, August 18, 2017

Barn ready for winter!





The Padawan returned the next morning on Sunday. He again had cereal for breakfast and was fed egg scramble with potatoes, onions and sidepork. He ate it all, no hot chocolate for him but I had two cups of coffee. He was itching to get out to the barn and finish the feeders. I had done all of the board cutting and had him assemble all the pieces on the wall with occasional help and lots of verbal direction. If it was wrong or loose I just had him undo and redo it. It's a barn and we are reusing scraps and old wood. This just adds more character to the building. We had to start using several pieces instead of one piece as I was running out of long boards. Once the Padawan finished the feeders I had him dig in the second story of the barn for my leftover tongue and groove board I had used on the main floor. We needed to add a new floor to one of the hay rooms. The boards had broken and it was a safety hazard. I cut the boards and then had him screw them down. We had to float three pieces together then screw down one, add a new one etc. you have to do it this way or else you cannot add the new board. The tongue and groove will warp when you tightened the first board down. Leaving two free floating allows you to counteract this problem. While he screwed down the floor I worked on adding another board to the momma and baby area. They can still jump out!  The problem with this is the grain bin lever. You need to be able to reach it to open the gate. A higher enclosure would block access to the handle. My solution was pure brilliance, I reused one of the jug gates!!  I also stiffened the enclosure. 




I also fixed the sorting chute. The sheep kept jumping over the ends of the smaller chute section. I added a heavy wire panel over these bolted in place to bounce them back into the chute should they attempt to jump out. I used some scrap panels, scrap wood and an old metal grounding strip plus new bolts. I don't have a good selection of old bolts. Most of the old nails and bolts I sent out with scrap metal. It was too hard to keep track of them and they needed to be sorted. I had no time for that. 


We also set up our new corral system as a hay enclosure. Our large bales that don't fit in the machine shop will live outside. I think I can only fit 15 ton in the machine shop. 

We had lunch at 1216 today. The Padawan remembered and was rewarded with more food. Ham and cheese sandwiches again. 


Supposed to be fencing

It has happened again, I have started with another teenager. I had told his mother we would fence but by the time he arrived last Saturday morning I had changed my mind. I had managed to get the outside fence secured so the animals are not escaping. I really want to enclose the new upper prime squared area but it will take me 40-60 hours to complete that fencing. That is a huge time commitment for four acres. Instead, I voted on actually getting ready for winter. The young Padawan was dropped off at 0645 with his father apologizing for the early drop off. I told him no problem and did not tell him I usually make them start at 0500-0530 during the summer. The Padawan is only 14 so he cannot drive. 
I drug him inside the house and asked him what he had for breakfast, "cereal" was the succinct answer. I was cooking breakfast as I had expected him at 0700.  We were having fried side pork and fresh farm eggs cooked in same grease pool pan that the pork was cooked in. He denied hunger. I went on the presumption that he was a teenage boy and can eat any time no matter how soon a meal was completed. He drank hot chocolate while I finished. He didn't know what side pork was and he picked gingerly at his two eggs upon their sudden arrival in front of him. AnnMarie asked me if I had asked him if he even wanted food. I gave her the look "he is a teenage boy".  He tried the pork and eggs. By the time I finished my breakfast he had consumed all the food in front of him. He was very polite and even offered to rinse off his own dishes. AnnMarie gave him the requisite speech about making me stop for lunch when he got hungry or else we would work all day with no lunch! 

We went outside to knock down the tumbleweeds in our driveway. I asked him if he knew how to drive. He stated yes. I got into the passenger seat as a precaution. I was hollering for him to push the break in the first five seconds of vehicle movement. He was turning into the car parallel to the pickup. Next was teaching him to actually look over his shoulder when backing up not just saying a Hail Mary prayer and going for it!  This concept took quite a bit of prompting almost as only using the right foot for the gas and brake. He managed to get the pickup over to the burn pile without adding a new dent.  On the plus side, between the numerous dents, dings and peeling paint I am not sure a new one would be noticed. I finished dragging weeds over to the burn pile with the tractor while the Padawan walked around picking up hay bale strings. We tossed loose scrap wood onto the burn pile also. I tasked him with parking the pickup back near our other vehicle. I did encourage him to hit the brake and not crunch through my fence and down into the front creek when parking. He did fine. The farm pickup is no worse for meeting him. 



We went into the barn to get ready for winter. Since we will have another 21 sheep we needed more feeder space. We had agreed that the jugs needed to come out as we were using the momma/baby area instead of the jugs. We had lumber stacked on the jugs and had started to dissemble by the time I remembered to take a starting picture. The goal as always is to reuse as much as possible. I saved the intact gates. Those had come from the old lamb shed. A gate is hard to make and harder to make one that will last 40 years so I just store them for use in later projects. They are "barn ready and tested" which is vital when you actually use them. We got the jugs totally disassembled and then started building the wall feeders. I just build stuff!!  No plans just an idea in my head and then I just keep digging through the scrap piles to make old pieces usable again. I taught the Padawan how to use an impact driver. I only swapped out six new drivers the first day!!  He did remember lunch. We were inside by 1230 eating ham and cheese sandwiches. 
We finished after an 8 hour day and he was disappointed we had not finished and moved onto fencing. I chuckled and told him we were close and had accomplished more than I thought we would.  He seemed excited to come back the next day to finish up the project!  He is also the only teenager I have had help me who could read a tape measure and knew what was a T square. Bonus points for the Padawan!