The Useful Duck!

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Almost done with hay

I've been doing hay. Or should I say, I've been waiting on the weather... Although I've been waiting, I'm not working less hours. I have not added up the tons or acres. I don't think it is really that much. Just a lot of fooling around.
Mrs. Hahn-10 acres, Mr. Chase, 10 acres, Rock of Ages hay field-10 acres, Muddy Valley-65 acres, Mrs. Bland 23 acres, what is left of my farm-10 acres.That is only like 128 acres, probably not even 500 ton of hay. I guess it is not bad for two people. I've stacked probably 120 acres for other people along the way.
My customers say I'm a bit grumpy.
This last week has been a bit frustrating. We finished cutting July 3rd. The last two fields are separated by hills and a long an winding road, probably a five mile drive, so it is hard to do them at the same time.
This year I knew I would be behind with the baling so we did things a little different. Usually I set the mower wide and try to bale within three days of cutting. This year I could see 90 degree weather coming and I knew that the fescue would turn brown. So, I set the mower narrow so less surface area of windrow would be exposed and so I would not drive on the windrow. This way the tractor would not push the hay into the ground were it gets wet and turns yellow.
I let the hay set in the fluffy windrow till I can get to it. Then we fluff it and blow the windrows apart which mixes the bleached hay in with the nice green unexposed hay. I try to avoid letting the tedded hay sit overnight. Two hours behind the tedder we double rake into one huge windrow. I try to be right behind the baler with the stacker so the inside of the stacks will stay nice and green.
This upset the people at the end of the road. They seem to think that they invented the haymaking process. In truth they have merely watched me do their field since 1981 so any change I make from the normal is met with skepticism. In all those years I have never lost a field of hay, I have only had rain on it once or twice and they have never had moldy hay. So why do they think their hay is of lessor quality this year?
I'm making some changes for next year. No more of this by the ton business. The bales are usually 110lbs. Without fail some ambitious sort decides to weigh the bales. Somehow they can always find the odd 90lb one but not find the occasional 120lb one.
So, it is by the bale. $3 per bale stacked in the field. Or $7 a bale to buy it in the field. No more by the ton BS. The price is the price is the price.
The whole hay experience is getting on my nerves.
At one time I had 150 acres or so rented. Now I'm down to 35 so I'm not really a farmer I guess. The one section I farmed for years up Gopher Valley I have subleased to a fellow who sometimes buys hay from me. I do admit to setting him up, but I've come to regret it. We shall call him Mr. X
After selling hay to him, and hiring him to haul hay for me for several years I picked up a distinct impression that he kind of coveted my hay farm. I know that real farmers cannot stand to see land set fallow so I set him up for a 100 acre parcel at Gopher Valley that I used to farm. I was all set to get it back and do hay one it. I had another person who was going to help me. I was going to hire Mr. X to haul for me, and was negotiating with him to buy the hay. Mr. X just would not commit to the hay and My friend who was going to help me backed out when it came right down to me needing him so I asked Mr. X if he wanted to farm the place. He was a bit shy at first but I did note how I really hated to give the place up and that he was the one fellow who I thought would make it pay. This was all BS as I really did not give a rip if he farmed it or not, I just wanted to see if I could talk him in to doing it by acting like I wanted to do it. It worked. Much to my amazement pretty soon there were two mowers and five balers heading up to Gopher Valley.
At the same time I was having problems with my farm. It had gone to bent grass and the yield was pretty bad. Plus, I had been in the government program for no-tilling and had managed to get the ground really rough attempting to no-till timothy in the winter. Then, I finally decided to replant correctly and I sprayed everything dead. When I replanted I plugged up the drill and didn't listen to the low seed alarm and the whole replant job was a failure. Something I would like to keep very quiet about. I am very glad it was not a paying customer because it was a royal screw-up.
I could see I was going to have to spend money I didn't have to put in a hay field that would not pay for several years and I just didn't have the heart to do it all again.
So, I just kept dropping comments to Mr. X about how I was trying to get my field to work and I was about out of money. How it was such a shame I couldn't make it work. How I hated to give it up, just when hay prices were hitting an all-time high.
And he offered to take it off my hands. In fact he was quite apologetic about it all.
The truth is I did hate to give it up. It was my farm. It was all I had and pathetic as it was, it was my farm.
I still have it in my name but the agreement was that I would give it up after I slowly broke the news to my aged landlady who thinks no one but me can farm it.
Then there was this year.
Mr. X plowed and worked the place. He has a beautiful stand of fescue and timothy. But, somehow, my information on where not to rip the ground too deep did not get transmitted to the employees and I think they cut the tile line that drains the spring at the top of the hill. The field is really wet in sections. So they skipped two three acre sections when they cut the hay at the end of June.
Last week I looked at the field and saw all the nice Timothy. I really need that timothy as I am redoing a ten acre section of my remaining farm. I offered to buy the hay or at least mow it for Mr. X. He declined.
Three hours later when I was raking my remaining acres I see Jose and a 3020 heading up the valley. I didn't even say the field was dry enough to cut. I just said I wanted to do it. Heck, it is still technically my farm.
It is just the farmer way I guess. Sure the fellow would give you the shirt off his back-but NOT three acres of what was recently your own field...
Today, I'm setting in my easy chair watching the rain. We have but a few blocks of hay outside the barn. We have no squeeze to put them in. I like to see the rain for the corn and the Teff but hate see that hay get wet. We moved quite a bit of seed and ground feed back under cover. I think it will be ok.
Earlier we went to a family reunion.
Dad's family was pretty close. All the cousins grew up together in one area. During WWII the Army took the ground for a training facility. All the members of the local church maintained a reunion there for years. It is now just my Dad's family and there are not so many folks left anymore. We got rained out.
I think I will take a nap. Not worry about the hay business anymore today.

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