Hazards of Farming

 

Last summer I spent quite a bit of time telling you about the process of doing hay.   For city people, it’s quite an education.  I am still learning – in fact every time I get on the tractor, it’s like learning all over again.  Well, this year I learned something new.  It’s a bit embarrassing, these lessons of mine.  But I feel like you need to know.  I mean, if you ever get thrown onto a farm (willingly or reluctantly) I want you to have the knowledge that I wish I’d have had before this process.  It’s like the parent who wishes their kids would learn from their mistakes and not let their kids learn from personal experience.  It doesn’t always happen that way, but at least I’m doing my part. 

One day I was in a store – can’t remember which store.  I saw this, and thought it was a sort of gag item.  Something that might have been sold around April Fool’s day or maybe Halloween.

Doing research for this post, I happily stumbled across this:

Let me ‘splain.  It’s been hay time again.  And while I’ve helped fairly extensively in past years, there’s always been reprieve.  Prince Farming’s dad and his help have come over, and Prince Farming has done at least one of the processes himself, so my time on the tractor was broken up.  But this time I had to mow, fluff, and rake three huge fields.   Normally I mow with a tractor that has an air-conditioned cab.  But on my way down the hill when I tried to raise the mower arm, there was a hydraulic hose in just a wrong spot, and the hose got pinched and broke, rendering the hydraulic system useless.  With very little time to spare (rain in the forecast), I parked that tractor, and rode over to Prince Farming’s dad’s farm and borrowed their mower, which was already conveniently attached to their tractor.  An open cab with a canopy.  No worries, I can handle an open cab.  Never mind that this tractor has to be started, not with a key, but with a loose wire that you hold to two spots and it kicks on.  That’s another post though.  So I got started mowing, and only an hour later than I’d hoped.  The shade of the canopy was good, but it was still hot.  I was in shorts and flip-flops, and figured I’d probably get a bit of sun, which couldn’t be a bad thing.  First day – all the mowing was done. 

Second day – on to fluffing (or teddering, for those of you who can’t stay on the farm when the word fluffer is used).  This time I could use our own tractor – but not the air-conditioned cab one.  The little cub cadet – also with a canopy – was the vehicle of use (not choice).  I don’t love this process because I can’t see where I’ve been as clearly as when I mow or rake, but it’s a necessary process to help in the drying of the hay.  I got all the fields teddered, and went to bed exahausted.  Spending 6-8 hours on a tractor might sound like a lazy day, but my body was sore and my mind numb.  I woke with a start at 2am.  It was POURING RAIN on my freshly cut and teddered hay.  That means that instead of raking first thing in the morning, I had to go over and fluff all over again.  So there I was – on the open tractor.  Let me paint a little word picture for you.  It’s HOT.  The fields are BUMPY.  On the sides of hills, you can barely keep yourself from sliding off the seat. And you’re SWEATING.  The combination of wet, sweaty shorts, very bumpy, slidey riding . . . well.  Here.  This might give you a better idea.

This is what spending endless days on a tractor leaves you feeling like.  I’m not kidding.  Prince Farming came  home from work when I was just done with the teddering and suggested I take a break.  I was SO relieved.  I really didn’t want him on the tractor much – especially on the bumpiest of fields because he hurt his back a  few weeks ago, and I didn’t want him to aggravate the injury.  His dad came over to help bale.  I’m not sure how the conversation went between them, but Prince Farming made it known that I needed a break from the tractor seat for a while.  He finished raking and his dad did the baling.  And my butt got a break. 

It took a couple of days to feel totally better, but I was able to go back out and load the hay bales onto the trailer and bring them to the barn before too much more time went by.  And I wasn’t on the open tractor for long enough to aggravate my injury.

There.  Consider yourselves educated.  And warned.

 

The Report. . .

 

So many of you have emailed and offered support during the planning of our Barn Party – I thought you’d want a report.  Nothing funny here.  Just a bunch of pictures from a tired but satisfied chik.  Of course, there are pictures missing, because I was half in a daze and half running around like a chicken with my head cut off.  So hopefully you’ll get an idea of the experience by browsing through this photo essay.

CLEAN UP:

Don’t know how many people clean their barn.  With a broom.  But here we go.  And when brooms just don’t cut it:

We have some great friends – they spent HOURS helping us prepare and pull off the barn party.

There is no picture of Prince Farming and my son going up and down the lane fences with weed-eaters.  Nor is there a picture of my niece who learned to drive on our small tractor – pulling the bush hog – for the first time ever – so the fields would be manageable.  What a star!

We sold tickets.  This was a fund-raiser party.  Our Pathfinder Club (sort of a co-ed Scouts program) sold the meal (haystacks) to raise money for a huge trip they’re taking next summer to Osh Kosh.  The 8th Graders sold baked goods and desserts to raise money for their class trip and graduation expenses.

Here are our same friends – still hard at work (we should be watching the one whose fingers are in the money box more closely!)  In the background you can see the food tables.

While we ate, we had a local band (Luther led out, I can’t remember what they called themselves).  They’re very talented, and sing/play a variety of folk music.

In between eating and talking and listening, there were a variety of activities.  I didn’t get photos of all of them, but here were a few favorites:

Not all the vehicles were this imposing.  They seemed to have a blast.

Here the kids pillow faught "to the fall" (when someones hay stack tipped over.)

Face painting is always a hit.  Here they worked with temporary tattoos or Rubber stamps (with washable skin ink and markers).

For those who didn’t want to go on their own, they could ride with a stable (opposite of unstable) rider.  Several little kids were led around this small field.  Or their parents rode with them.  Or the parents rode alone.  And when they didn’t have customers, the riders (my nieces) did this:

The miniature horse lives with these guys, and loves to follow wherever they go.  He’s so cute!

We had several team / individual contests planned.  I was the MC, so didn’t get pictures, but someone got a picture of me:

That would be me with my chicken hat.  Pathetic thing.  Looks like the chicken was having a hard time laying that egg.  And that egg probably thinks about as well as normal "cackleberries" do.  I believe I was cheering on the pie-eating contestants here.

We had a corn-shelling relay race (teams had to grab an ear of field corn, run to the wagon to husk and shell the corn (take all the kernals off) then run back to their team to tag the next person).  It took a lot longer than I anticipated but they didn’t want me to cut it short, so we let them do half of the husks (12 per team).

There was also a Tug ‘o War.  The first round was over in a hurry.  The winners got foam animal visors (horses, maybe).  The next war was a bit more evenly matched, and they started wearing down.  The winners actually had to have help from the side-lines to get the tape over the mark.  Their team more than doubled in number to overcome their very strong opponents.

The pie-eating contest was. . . disgusting.  I felt like throwing up for those crazy people.  They weren’t allowed to use their hands.  They were covered with black trash can liners, but still managed to get their clothes full of chocolate pudding.  These two stuck it out to the end, but weren’t the winners.  My pictures are too bright (you can’t see what’s going on) because of the sun’s angle (or the angle of the shots, I suppose)

There was also a beanbag toss game that Blackie brought for us to play.   People seemed to enjoy it (the object was to throw a beanbag into the hole in the box 30 feet away – with 4 tries, I think).  There was another player throwing in this direction.  At times, this drew quite a crowd.

And the kids had a blast with the climbing rope.

This must not have been taken at the party, because normally there were tons of kids around.

We also had a jail.  People paid to have someone thrown into jail.  The victims had to sit in the jail (a horse stall) for 10 minutes or pick a task out of a bag.  If they chose NOT to do the task, they had to double their time in jail AND pay a ticket to get out.  I was thrown into jail and opted to sing "Mary had a Little Lamb" opera-style.  Luckily most of the people were on a hay ride at the time, so I only embarrassed myself in front of a few people.  The other time, I had to "gallop" around the barn on a stick horse yelling "yee haw" and pushing the horses ear to make the music play.  Whatever.  There weren’t very many people who chose the embarrassing way out of  jail.  I just didn’t have time to sit.  In hindsight, maybe I should have just used all my tickets to keep myself in there the whole time.  Didn’t think that one through, huh?

We ended the party with a couple of hay rides, pulled by my favorite father-in-law (yes, he’s also my only one!)

When they got back, there was a campfire and hot chocolate.  And clean-up.  Most people left around then.

The weather was perfect.  We had around 125 people come by (in waves).  It was fun to visit and see the kids enjoying themselves.  This year worked out well because the barn is not inhabited by cows yet.  Next year’s party (in our barn) is not a guaranteed thing.  We’ll have to see how messy it gets (being new to this whole farm thing and all). 

 

The Sky and the Barn

 


So many of you leave happy comments about the sky over my pond.  Last week TheFishingGuy asked about the sky over my barn.  What an idea.  Same sky.  Different perspective.  Got on my little Rhino with my little camera, and here’s what you get.

This shot even has a few left-over hay rolls that hadn’t made it into the barn yet.  They’re all safe and warm now.

 

And here’s the same sky over the field.  The field looks particularly green.  That happens after the hay is mowed and then we had some rain – which has happy new grass growing.

 

There have been some spectacular sunrise shots on recent Skywatch posts.  I dream of having a cool sunrise.  I’m sure there is one out there – but from my vantage point, here is what the sunrise looks like:

Actually, the sun would be rising from the opposite direction, but since you know how close the pond mostly seems, you know I’d never see the sun, if I can barely see the pond.  Here’s what I saw when I swung around to the east.

Beautiful, ain’t it?  Actually, it is pretty.  Just not with the stunning, dense colors that some people see when the day overtakes darkness. 

 

Just so you don’t go through complete withdrawal, here’s a pond sky for you.  I’ll settle for cool sunsets.  I’m not usually up in time to see sunrise – colors or not.

 

You can see more very amazing skies, clouds, sunrises and sunsets from various angles and from all over the world right here.  Better yet, take a shot of your own, and share it with us – everyone can play.

Hay – the Rest of the Story

 

This is a pictoral account (limited narration) for the hay recipe so many of you commented on:

 

Here is a field of hay, ready to be cut:

 

Here’s a field (looking backwards out of the tractor) of a field partially cut:

 

Here’s the field fully cut (from a distance), the close field corners have already been fluffed:

 

Here’s that field – ready to rake:

 

And that field, raked – and the baling process started.  We did some square bales for our neighbor’s horses.  The rest will be round bales.

 

And when it’s all said and done – here is the hay, stored:

 

And now you know the rest of the story.

The Recipe for Hay

 


This week’s Heads or Tails topic is:  Recipe

When I saw this posted last week, I figured I was going to share a boring (but delicious) recipe for Napa Cabbage.  But that will have to wait for another day.  Today I decided to share the recipe (at least in part) for Hay.  I know there have to be people out there who are dying to know how to make hay, but who just haven’t found the recipe.  Let me help you out. 

Here’s what you need:

One Misty Morning.  If you swing around to look behind you, it might look like this:

Throw in one tractor – with mower contraption attached

For good measure and a little excitement, try fighting one of these. . . INSIDE the tractor cab.  I mean right by my face.

If anyone knows their spiders, maybe you can help out with identification.  Here’s a better picture (BTW – I stopped the tractor to take these marvelous shots, in case you’re wondering)  I didn’t crop the picture this way – the spider was crawling out of my range, and I got it just in time.  Right before I took the dust pan to fling that thing out of the window.

Okay – back to the recipe.  Sorry for that little diversion.

 

 

After you have a field, a morning, and a tractor, oh, and a reluctant (or not) farm chik, add time. A lot of time.  Like 8 hours, maybe.  With some crazy people who just happened to show up for work today to build the barn.  Or no, maybe just to watch the crazy chik in the tractor.  How many times will she get hung up on a fence line?  And how will she maneuver out of the fence line?  And I wonder what she’ll do if we walk across the field toward her to ask for 2-cycle gas because we didn’t bring enough.

Okay – those are the ingredients for this step.  Now comes the procedure.  Brace yourselves.  I know – you can hardly stand it.  Me either.

Go through the motion of getting everything started.  Luckily the key in the ignition with a turn brought about some rumbling.  That might be a good sign.  Let the motor warm up. 

Don’t move any of the mower adjustments – they’re exactly where they should be (as per Prince Farming). 

Start the mower motor (PTO) by lifting up the yellow knob and turning it.  No, turn it the other way.  Okay. 

Speed up the tractor motor (also the PTO then, since it’s engaged) to 2,000 thingys (whatever that term is).  You know that’s happened, because the needle hovers over the 20.   Good grief. 

Then put the one gear lever into "B" range and shift the other one into 2nd.  Or 3rd.  Whichever you can handle.  (WHAT can I handle?) 

Take your foot off the clutch.  Then hang on.  For dear life.  And be careful around the corners. 

And watch the mower.  Don’t run over anything (I’m assuming other than hay).

And if you hear any funny sounds, turn it off.  Or slow down. 

And if the belt seems too loose, then tighten it one turn (Okay – there’s a whole ‘nother blog entry called "if the belt seems too loose")  HOW will I know if the belt is too loose?  Will it jump off? 

And, by the way,  the thing always makes a funny noise.  If I turned it off every time there was a funny noise, I’d spend the day turning it on, and then turning it off. 

And watch the mower. 

If one were to watch the mower, how would one know where to steer?  And what exactly would one be watching for, if one were to keep one’s eyes glued to the mower.  Theres a thingy that spins around and around at an alarming rate.  And there’s something rubbing on something else that makes an alarming sound.  But one can’t be exactly sure about what one is watching.  Back there.  One should rather keep one’s eyes facing in the forward direction with a possible, but only occasional, backward glance through the rear-facing window.  (Don’t tell Prince Farming.)

Here’s the bottom line:

I mowed for 8 hours.  All that I missed were 2 huge fields, one tiny field, and a part of a field around a pond/swamp, which I studiously avoided so I wouldn’t get stuck in the mud (did that once before – last year – had to wait to be pulled out of the mud by Prince Farming’s dad. . . who happens to be one of my all time favorite people in the entire world – and not just because he pulled me out of the mud.  Without negative comments.  And only a few snide remarks.)

So today will be the rest of the fields.  Actually I think I’ll tackle the two big fields.  That’s it.  And not even the one whole big field, because that field is on a precipice.  And tractors, me, and precipices don’t mix so very well.  Not friendly at all.  Nope.  I’ll just do the flatish parts.

After mowing the hay, it has to be fluffed (not by me – I’m not allowed to touch the fluffer – aww shucks!).  Then it has to be raked (which to me, takes more skill than fluffing, but I’m allowed required to do that).  And then baling.  Not by me.  Then hauling.  By me.  Maybe I’ll post some of those pictures on Friday.  Ooi, this week is not going how I planned it to go.  Which is just how farming is.  You farm when the farming needs to be done.  Just plan on it.

This is the 2nd cutting of hay.  The first was much better qualify.  Tall grass, lush clover.  The 2nd cutting has more weeds.  But it’s also more pretty.  Here are a couple of things I shot through the window before I plowed over and mowed them flat.

You can play Heads or Tails every week too by visiting here.

Farm Day

 

You must be as surprised as I am with this post.  Afterall, it’s TUESDAY, not THURSDAY or SUNDAY.  I’d asked Prince Farming on Sunday whether we needed to mow hay, but because of Hurricane Gustav and Ike, Diesel prices are ridiculous, and we’re practically out, so he said we were going to hold off for a while.  So I planned my week.  Very full.  Lots of commitments and ideas and inspiration.  Then Prince Farming’s dad (and our neighbor) called to say that the weather now is perfect for hay, and we need to do it.  Now.  This week.  So I can’t stay and chat.  Last night we hitched the mower onto JD in the dark and took two loops around a field to make sure it was all working okay.  I’ll be able to tell you all about it.  But not now.  Must mow.  Now.  Today.  Ugh.  I feel a bit more than slightly reluctant.  My blog name is perfect.

 

Here’s a flower to cheer us up.  This flower was growing all by itself in a pile of rocks.  This flower is "the other side of reluctance"

Digging in my heels

 For those who know me, I don’t have to explain why I use “reluctant” in my blog name.  Or maybe I do.    Does it mean I’m reluctant to live on a farm?  Or that I don’t enjoy my environment?  Or . . . ?  Where does this reluctance come from? 

 Actually, if you would have told me 10 years ago that I’d be living on a farm and doing farm chores, I would have snickered a whimpy little “yeah, right!”  But here I am, on a farm, and when the need arises, I do farm chores.  Yeah!  Right!  It’s me.  When I think about it beyond the “I should be painting my toe-nails and eating bon-bons” scenario, I believe my reluctance isn’t so much what you all might think it is.  Let me work it through on this live journal page.

Prince Farming works at the office most of the week.  His day off is Thursday (which isn’t “off” at all – it just means he works very hard at a different place on Thursday) and weekends.  He also gets home at varying times on other days, which allows him to work on the farm on most afternoons – especially in the summer time when the office isn’t so busy and the days are longer.   He is a work-a-holic and loves to get things done.  He is very project oriented, and he ALWAYS finishes the projects he starts.  That just amazes me, even after all these years.  I admire it in him.  That might also be part of my reluctance.  The farm is a project. . . and do farms ever “get done”?  Nope.  Always a fence to mend; barn to repair; hay to mow, rake, bale, and haul;  fields to clear; rocks to pick; cows to work; equipment to fix; etc. etc. etc.  

I like to mentally prepare for what I’m going to do.  And the farm doesn’t always allow one to plan or schedule work.  If the cows are getting out, they need to be herded back and the fence needs to be mended NOW, not when I have an open time-slot next week.  If I’m in the middle of a school project or have a scheduled work-bee, for example, but hay is ready NOW and it’s going to rain the next three days . . .  you get the picture.  So farming kind of ties one to the farm.  Maybe that’s my reluctance.  I’ve never lived anywhere for longer than 5 years – EVER .  (Well, except till now).  I love diversity.  It might be a character flaw, but after I’ve lived in a place for a while, it’s easy to just move away, because it’s like a fresh start.  A clean page.  I miss friends from places past, but then I have a great collection of kindred-spirits all over, and an excuse and destination to travel.  How lucky can a girl be?  And I love to travel.  But the more you do on a farm, the less you can get away.

Then comes the part about not failing.  If I do something, I don’t want it to be a disappointment to someone else.  So if I’m bush-hogging and an unsuspecting rock jumps out of the ground and kills the blade. . .I feel like I create more work than I save / do (very clumsy sentence).  Or if I’m mowing hay and snag the fence row, there’s wire to be run again.  I know that’s the cost of farming, and it happens to everyone.  I just take it personally.  And the learning curve for me on a farm is huge.  This is my first experience – while Prince Farming has been doing everything I do since he was 10 or 11 years old.  So he does it completely effortlessly.  I learn something one year (like mowing hay with that crazy off-to-the-side mowing arm thingy) and the next year (or at the end of the summer) I have to learn it again – (how do you turn on the PTO?  How to you raise the mower?  {No – DON’T raise it this year, it gets stuck and requires all sorts of repair if you do.  I’ll fix that this winter}  How fast should I go and in what gear? Where the heck are those holes that were so obvious 3 weeks ago, but now could kill the tractor and the mower (and me) if not avoided? etc. etc. )  And maybe it’s my age – or this stuff just doesn’t come naturally to me – I can’t even remember all the things I should ask!

Because of my farming inexperience, my jobs are often the most mundane.   I end up doing what I feel is “not much” (lots of standing around) because Prince Farming needs me to hold something in place, or hand him a tool, or go get something from the shed.  I know that my help is invaluable.  I just feel like in between times there are sixty loads of laundry I could be doing, or washing windows (what a joke – but it goes through my mind in times like these) or stamping, or reading, or painting my nails and eating bon-bons, or . . . anything but this!!   Aunt Ruth, who lives with her farmer husband Uncle Robert, was smiling at me when I told her about the stuff I sometimes do on the farm.  I asked her if she ever had to do that stuff on their farm.  Her response was “I like helping him about as much as he likes me to help him.”  So funny.  They have an agreement.  You do your farm thing, and I’ll be here to watch.  Not my Prince Farming, though.  He loves me to be right there, even if I’m doing nothing at all for most of it.

So the reluctance doesn’t mean I don’t love the farm.  I just wasn’t anticipating this being my life.  There is a lot that I love about being here.  And there is a certain amount of satisfaction when local farmers (or not) drive past and watch with admiration as they see me hauling the rocks, or pulling the hay from the (formerly) open drive-shaft on the cub cadet.   And then there’s the opportunity for character development and personal growth.  I’ll share that as I’m aware of it.  For right now – here I am.  ReluctantFarmChik.  Could have been InexperiencedAndWannaPlanTravelFarmChik.  But that would sound like I’m an idiot itinerant farmer. . . not quite my message. 

Site Hosted by