Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Finishing Hay Before the Rain...

Baling hay has been a challenge this time around!

We would love to have some nice dry, small square bales, but the weather just isn't cooperating.  All during that long stretch of dry weather that we had, second cutting wasn't ready to be mowed yet.  Once it was ready to be mowed, the clouds rolled in and the farmers have been fighting with the weather all week long.  I don't think anyone in the neighborhood got dry squares this time around.

This morning Jim finished up second cutting with twenty three more round bales.  He was baling a mile away at some rental ground, so he rented an Amish neighbor's bale transporter to make the process more efficient.  (Check out the metal wheels on the transporter, and the tracks it left on the driveway.)

My cousin took the bale transporter to the hay field and loaded up five bales at a time, bringing them back to our house.  This was the last load, with only four.  He unloaded them on the driveway...



...and Jim wrapped them and put them in place along with all the other round bales.  This video is a little long.  I've posted him wrapping bales before, but this one shows it from start to finish...picking up the bale, positioning it, wrapping it and dropping it into place.  Part way through he asks me to get some tape for the one bale that had a little tear in it.  They've got to be air tight!



Normally Jim would take the wrapper to the field...pick up two bales at a time...bring them home and wrap them...and repeat the process.  This way he saved a lot of time in transporting the bales, and could just continually wrap until he was finished.

Here's an "oops"...


The net wrap came loose while transporting.  It wrapped "ok", but we'll probably feed this one first, in case it's not air tight.  We don't want moldy hay!

This batch of bales is labelled E2.  E is for Esbenshade's (the farm where it was baled) and 2 for second cutting...


It's super hot and humid today, and thunderstorms are expected to roll through this afternoon and evening.  While we're disappointed to not have dry hay, at least it's finished and there will be about four weeks until third cutting starts.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mowing the Meadow...

There's just something about a neatly manicured lawn and freshly mowed meadow...


...that makes me feel like all's right with the world.

A freshly mopped kitchen floor has the same effect on me.  If only it got done more often!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Rain...

The last time we had rainfall of any account was on June 2.  That's long enough ago that the ground was beginning to get pretty parched and dry. The crops were really thirsty!

On Sunday evening a storm rolled through, but we barely got .10", while just south of us folks got close to an inch of rain.  That's the way the storms have been this spring...very spotty.  The weather forecast has called for rain but we've barely got a drop, until last night.  I woke up around 2 am to hear the sound of a steady, gentle rain.  Music to our ears!

This morning this was the measurement...


It might seem silly to be excited over this,  but when your livelihood depends on the weather...over which we have no control...we are especially thankful when we are given what we need.

It's nice to see tracks in the mud...the milk truck and the tractor...


...and of course the reflection of the barn in a puddle...


Even the flowers are rain - kissed and happy...


I know that some of you have been desperately hoping for dry weather.

I hope you're getting what you need where you are!

Monday, June 15, 2015

What's Growing...Or Not...

There are a lot of things growing here this time of year...

My garden is much smaller this summer, and I'm trying something that I've wanted to for a while  now.  Last fall's leaves were piled thickly on the garden, and I just left them lay without rototilling them in this spring.  They're helping to keep moisture in the soil, and weeds at bay...or at least that's the idea.  Our Amish neighbor brought me a couple of wagon loads of horse manure which was spread on top of the leaves a few weeks ago. I'm hoping the extra layer will not only fertilize my garden, but will also help with weed control.  I've heard this referred to as lasagna gardening.  I'll probably add some grass clippings this summer and more leaves in the fall.  While I'm not following the instructions to a T, I'm using the basic concept.  Tilling the soil dries it out and turns over weed seeds.  It's also more work.  We'll see how it works this summer!


We'll be eating fresh zucchini in just a few days!  Beware, kids!


Jim put in a grape arbor this spring.  The large vine in the foreground is one that we transplanted from a neighbor who didn't want it any more...


I'd say it's quite happy here...


The perennials that I transplanted from my big bed to my small one are finally taking off.

This cone flower is one of my favorites...


The number of round bales is growing too.  Jim baled spring seeded alfalfa on Saturday, adding to the row.  The NS on the bales stands for "new seeding"...


These little twins were born last night in the outside pen.  There's a bull and a heifer, so they'll both go to market later this week.  (when one of the twins is a bull and one a heifer, the heifer is often sterile)...


And as for what's not growing...


My big, old perennial bed is well on it's way into a distant memory.  It's been sprayed, mowed off, and in a week or so a skid loader will pull out the old root balls, level off some fill dirt, and we'll seed grass up to the edge of the shrubs.  I'm eager to have it finished!

It was sad to make the decision to get rid of the big perennial bed, but now that it's gone, I don't miss it!  All that work...and I'm also enjoying the smaller vegetable garden.  I'm finding that I have the energy (both physically and mentally) to take care of my smaller beds much better, now that the work load has diminished!  Hind sight is always 20/20, right?

We could still use some more rain!  Last night we were at the very edge of a thunderstorm that dumped almost an inch of rain just a mile or so south of us.  We got about .10", which settled the dust, but we could sure use more!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Jolyn the Adventurous Kitty...

Jolyn the kitty went on an adventure this morning...

She must have climbed up on the barn roof at a low point to stalk a bird...that's the only thing we can think of.  Regardless, she ended up on the north side of the barn in the rain spout...scared...

Can you spot her?




All she would have needed to do, is to go back up to the peak of the roof and down the other side, to a low spot, from where she could've easily jumped down, but no...that would've been too simple.  And yes, the slate roof is slippery, so maybe it wouldn't have been as simple as I think.

The Virginia cousins are here for Eric's graduation, so we put them to work. Maria, Curtis and Eric set up the big extension ladder, and Jenna did camera duty...



I don't like heights, but I decided to climb up, because Jolyn trusts me, and I knew she would sit on my shoulder on the way down.  She watched closely...


...and sat on my shoulder, just like I thought she would, and began purring as soon as she knew she was safe...


 We're both happy to be on the ground again...


All in the name of adventure.

Next time, stay on the ground, Jolyn!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Thirsty Ground is Happy...

The corn and beans have come up...

The garden is growing...slowly...

The flowers are weary of my watering can...

We finally got some much needed rain over the past two days!

Eric's graduation party was on Sunday evening...outside...and we were pretty nervous about the weather.  However...as dry as it's been here, and as much as we've needed rain, we didn't want to complain.  As farmers, we are so dependent on the weather.  Thankfully, we got to enjoy a beautiful evening with friends...and then a thunderstorm rolled through around midnight. Yesterday we had a few rain showers, and overnight we had some more, totaling right around 1.5".

Perfect!

The graduate (almost)...


Yesterday...a wonderful sight to see a gray sky...


The beans are coming up nicely through the old rye field.  After this rain, they'll grow quickly...


My flowers would much rather be fed the natural way.  And Little Ed is glad for some shelter from the rain.  I call him my garden kitty.  Last summer he would follow me everywhere in my vegetable garden.  Since my vegetable garden has shrunk considerably this year, he's moved to my "new", smaller perennial bed. This is where I've saved my favorites...




The thirsty ground is happy!

And so are the farmers.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Cow Mattresses...

Yesterday we had some special accommodations put in for a few of the cows.

We have four rows of stalls in our cow stable, and each stall has a non-slip, rubber mat installed on top of the concrete.  The reasons for the mat are two-fold...non-slip...which helps to prevent tramped teats and other injuries...and cow comfort.

The rubber mats wear out eventually, and it was time to make some replacements. Jim opted to go with cow mattresses in the third row...he figured it was time to try something different.

I was busy in the morning while they were being installed, and I missed some good photo-ops.  I'll try to describe what happened in the absence of a lot of step by step pictures.

First...the old rubber mats were torn out.  The guys used a digging iron, and popped the mats loose from their concrete anchors.  They then scraped the concrete clean of any loose fodder or sawdust bedding that had gotten underneath the mats.

Next...the mattresses arrived, and the mostly Amish crew began the installation.   The first layer looked kind of like a big rubber raft, like you'd float on in a swimming pool.  I'm not sure how else to describe it.  The second layer looked like a really thick piece of carpet padding.  Both layers were wrapped and sealed inside of a non-slip, water proof, canvas type of material.  The way they are designed, they should stay in place better than the old mats, and loose bedding shouldn't get underneath.

Here's a picture of the guys putting on the finishing touches...


Here's an up close shot of the new mattresses.  They'll never be this clean again...


Cows are leery of new things...so we tried to make them look as "normal" as possible, by putting plenty of sawdust on top for extra bedding...


We knew it would be interesting, when the cows came back in the barn. Anything out of the ordinary is cause for alarm...or at least suspicion.  The pile of old mats and scraps from the installation were too much to resist...


Some of the cows walked right into the stalls with no hesitation, but #280 wasn't too sure.  She had to do a lot of sniffing before she would take that final step...


Things went better than I expected overall, and they were soon all in their stalls.  One cow, however, refused to behave, and opted for a stall in the fourth row.  This morning, she still refused to step on that yellow mat.  After they get dirty enough maybe she'll be willing to try!