The Useful Duck!

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Heat Wave

Day before yesterday was 104, yesterday 107. Around 4 p.m. employee and I went to the river. The river was actually hot feeling. Don't ever remember that before.
I think the record for yesterday was 110 in 1956. Day before was 105 in 1997. I think. May be off on my days.
Have a new helper. I hate breaking in new people. Explaining how to rake and bale. Don't make piles with the v-rake. You know YOU are going to be the one to bale it. Watch the moisture tester and stroke counter in the baler. If the moisture goes over 16 percent let me know! That is why we have the moisture tester in the tractor.
Don't slip the clutch. Don't drive into piles of straw at full speed. Do you have enough water?
I like hiring high school and college girls. They are always happy. And I can't get mad at them unless they do something really stupid twice in a row.
I started on my $30 a ton straw yesterday. Baled half a truck load. The stuff is crap. I don't know what I'm going to do. I desperately need the money but I'm thinking of pulling out. I've got to find the fellow buying the straw and see if he will take it.
I have a fellow who owes me $$$ for hay. He is trying to cut me down on the price. But, I lost his phone number and now he is annoying my land lord.
A/C blew up in the cab in the stacker. Found a loose hose fitting and fixed it. I was drenched with sweat by the time I was done. Tried to boost the air in the 2-135. Got it colder by adjusting the A/C pressures up a little. Then the fitting on the gauge set blew out with a whoosh. Lost my added r-134 on that one.
Then the combine. It is freon and it is not working. Burnt my hand working on that one in the 130 degree engine compartment.
I want to go away...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Why I love to farm

I think I’ve been a bit on edge lately. Seem to perhaps have become a bit negative.

The latest round of negativity may have started with the NewAgTalk discussion of why we farm.

It was wonderful.

Everyone farms because they love it. No one posted that they farm because, they don’t know what else to do, they were born on the farm and partied so hard in college they couldn’t do anything else, or one summer they came back home to help out and somehow just never left even though it has been 20 years (me).

My favorites are those who make statements about the lifestyle choice.

I tell myself I farm because I love the lifestyle, the beauty of God’s creation, the wonderful people I meet, and the freedom to be my own boss.

Translation: I work my arse off in the heat and dust all summer so I can work on antique broken farm equipment in the winter and freeze my arse off.

The plus side of this is that I have ended up with a small arse. This would be better were I female.

Then there are the folks who make the statement along the lines of, “I came to enjoy farming more when I treated it like a business instead of a lifestyle.”

Translation: I got tired of being screwed by all the other farmers and I decided to screw them harder then they screwed me…

I farm because that is what I do. Sometimes I really enjoy it. Sometimes I am just angry. I guess I’d do something else if I could figure out what else to do.. Somehow I think that I’m going to end up in a Marx farm set from 1968. Have a tidy old barn, a few cows, chickens, one small tractor-a Moline 335 or perhaps a 670 super, my wife will tend a little garden, we will have a fruit room full of canned vegetables and peaches, several wooden crates of potatoes, and the house will smell faintly of honey comb.

Sometime I am going to realize that ain’t going to happen. I have not the self discipline nor the motivation for subsistence farming. I can never afford my own farm. At best I could end up a hired man for a giant farmer. However, I could be what ever I want on NewAgTalk forums-so perhaps there is hope.

I had another round of annoyances with the local farmers.

Fescue straw is worth nothing this year. Last year it was worth 85 dollars a ton in the field. This year I am lucky to get $35. I decided to bale because I am broke. It is just trading dollars for slightly more dollars and really is not worth the trouble but I need $3500 and I can get paid right away for selling my 100 tons of straw.

I have been getting straw from my good friend and cousin. He has some rented ground which he farms in partnership with a local who is kind of a big time operator. They have been friends since childhood I guess. They have a good relationship. The BTO appears to be clueless, “oh I can’t figure out how to run my sprayer, can you show me how? Oh did I screw you in the arse, Oh I didn’t mean for you to think that, I wanted you to think I’m a nice guy. Let me tell you how God has blessed me.”

So BTO screws my cousin and my cousin rationalizes it away. Good basis for friendship.

I call my cousin about the straw. It is a bit of a problem as while I am supposed to be friends with BTO and I have asked for this field a number of times he insists on giving his share to someone else. Last year I paid them $40 a ton stumpage for the straw I got.  Cousin says I can have his share. I tell him I don’t need exactly half, I want a clearly defined field. Doesn’t have to be perfect just needs to be mine. Cousin says ok. (had some problems with this last year.)

That afternoon another neighbor calls me. Very apologetic. BTO offered him the BTO’s share. Neighbor wants to make sure everything is ok with me. Offers to buy any extra straw I may have from that field.

Now that is how it should be done. I almost just gave him the whole field cause I don’t want to bale in the projected 104 degree temps.

BTO is a jerk.

But, of course I will go plant his stupid little triangle fields and listen to him say what a nice guy I am and why he never understands why his neighbors don’t like him. Perhaps we can talk about God together.

Later me can go to #$%^ Promise Keepers and hold hands.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Not much of a businessman

I have been told this before... I'm not a very good businessman. I'm really not sure why I try to give people good deals. I really don't think I care that much if people like me. In fact most of the time I would just rather be left alone. So, I can't say I am trying to buy friendship. I see the prices everyone is charging and I think, "boy that's a lot of money. I wouldn't want to pay that much," and I cut the price a little. That is kind of insane. OF COURSE IT IS A LOT OF MONEY-that is the point!
So, yesterday I sold some hay at Gopher Valley. She had bought hay from me the day before, so I knew the lady had lost her job so instead of charging $10 a bale for the 110lb three-tie bales, I charged her $8. And then since she only had $16 in her pocket, I through in another bale for free-since I was already on the stack and it seemed a shame to just get two bales.
Her and her husband come back to get more hay yesterday. He is some sort of jet airplane inspector and makes big bucks and will never get fired. They were buying hay at the farmstore for $15 a bale. $10 would have been fine.
Very nice people. He worked summers on a farm. They ran Freeman 330 balers, bulled by Toyota Landcruisers. Somewhere around Stockton, CA. He said they would load the hay into boxcars. Anyone who has done that kind of job in that kind of heat has got to be some sort of super-hero...
I could sell a lot more hay to the locals up there if I had it to sell. Kind of a funny market. 
I see the fellow I'm subrenting my other hay field to got his rained on Timothy baled. 
I do think it is funny to think that he wouldn't sell me that three acres of hay. Then he got it rained on... Then they didn't take care of it till it was bleached brown. I could have sold the rained on hay as well.
I'm continually amazed by farmers. If you found 20 farmers I bet 18 of them would screw you in a business deal if they could. Of the 18 two of them would be honest about it and laugh and the rest would tell you it was for your own good. I try to be friends with the 2 out of 20-and do business with 2 honest out of the 18.
On my way up to Gopher Valley I was thinking about that issue.
I was driving by fields of grass straw. I have no straw to bale. We have lost a few acres by refusing to pay outrageous prices that those who out bid me did not actually pay. I need a couple hundred acres. I've approached several farmers with the idea that I would just take care of their straw. Pay them what it is worth and do a good job.
I know the straw is not worth very much, but I would get it done...
Back to work.
Who cares

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Anger Management?

I've been trying to get my stupid 20 acres finished at Gopher Valley. So far I've used 200 gallons of diesel, made 8 trips across it, and today I broke my cultipacker.
It is an international 913 or something like that. It has cast iron brackets that attach the rollers to the frame. 
I've made three trips with it, well four if you count the first pass after plowing with the disk ahead of it... Anyway, I had finished the main field, I kind of decided to give up on it as the ground is now totally dry and will not pack, I figured if I got it down to the size of marbles I would let it set all summer and perhaps get a sprout in the early fall. So, I do the last little corner which had a lot of sod, the harrow kept plugging up so I made a trip through the briar patch at the edge of the field to clean out the harrow. The tractor pulled down and I looked back through the dust in time to see the roller jam under the wheels.
I get everything unjammed and go after my pickup for tools to remove the broken mounts. I forgot to lock the hubs, but I did make it across the creek that only runs when I need to do work in my field. But, on the way back I got stuck. I got out by locking the hubs and rocking the truck back and forth but now I screwed up my crossing and the creek is flooding my field. 
I also managed to nail myself in the knee with a sledgehammer and scrape and bruise my arm at the same time by scraping it down the broken casting when the wrench slipped off the suck nut.
Sometimes I really hate my job....Life....other farmers....Gopher Valley.... Everything....

Monday, July 20, 2009

What do I do now?

Hay is basically over, I have 10 acres of alfalfa to bale tonight. I have stacking to do for the neighbor.
I don't have Gopher Valley finished.
I need to bale some grass straw. It is worth nothing. I think I'm getting $30 a ton, stacked in the field.
Not sure what to do with Gopher Valley.
I plowed it but there is a lot of sod. I think the sod needs to sit for a month and dry out. But, I've got the disk and culipacker there.
I need to disk up some more rough hay fields, but will that actually work. Will it still be just as rough next year? Do I need to plow it all?
Can I afford to plow it?
Should I round up it and no-till oats?
How do I get it sprayed and can I afford to run my drill 10 miles in the hills to do 20 acres when I most likely will have paying customers.
I know I make more money working for other people than I do working for myself.
What about Muddy Valley.
My landlord there, wants me to work up more pasture for hay ground.
I can't afford it.
I've got 120 gallon's of diesel invested in this project already, and it is not even finished.
Then there is the fact that everything has gone to heck and nothing is actually worth doing.
I feel a touch depressed this morning...

Friday, July 17, 2009

I worked ground at Gopher Valley

I know now why I have been trying to get rid of this farm. I want it back when I'm all done with hay and need a little more, BUT, when I'm up there spending money that there is a good chance I won't get back... I kind of hate the place...
I hauled the 14ft Bush Hog disk and the 914 International cultipacker up behind my pickup. (Not all at once) It was a little touchy on the narrow roads. I pulled the 911 Melroe plow up behind my tractor as it doesn't pull very fast.
I had hired a friend to use his little 90hp 4wd tractor and 10ft covercrop disk earlier in the year. He quit saying it was too rough and wet. Where he went over the ground twice-three times it works up really nice. i wouldn't even have to plow. Where he quit the grass is three foot tall and plugs up the disk. I actually bent my 3/4" hitch pin. The bouncing of the disk worked the hair pin up through the drawbar hole. Bent the pin and when it all came unhooked the bungie cord I had holding the hydraulic hoses up out of the way, busted the rear window. 
This is the other reason I hate this farm something always goes wrong.
More bad luck will follow I'm sure.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hot weather

It is warming up. I like it in the 70-80 degree days. Was having lunch at the Amity Cafe. Saw a huge motorhome. Fellow and wife was from Texas. Had a nice chat. They are somehow connected with Texas A&M U. They said it was 90 back home and humid. They were happy to be down the road.
Employee sick yesterday. I worry about him. Not a good thing to weigh 350lbs.
Yesterday I worked on the combine instead of working ground. Lost all the benefit of the recent rain. Ground is now like concrete again. I did haul the disk up to Gopher Valley. Going to take the cultipacker today. Need to go look at a nearly free combine today. JD 6620. I hate to go over to the green side but free is a very good is crap! And crap is often green so go figure...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wednesday Morning

It is supposed to be 90 today...
Was looking at our clover field last night. I plowed and planted that field a month ago. Nothing but pigweed growing. I packed the field pretty well and then used my Great Plains drill to plant. The press wheels were pushing about an inch into the ground. I was planting the clover pretty shallow. In some cases you could see seeds pushed into the moist ground where the press wheel left a track. But-then the harrow covered it say 1/2" deep or was it 1" with loose soil? Then we packed it with a roller.
So.... Did I plant too deep? Did I plant into moisture and then get a sprout-then loose the moisture and kill the sprout? There was fairly good moisture. I planted after a 2" rainstorm.
My teff was done the same way. The field I rolled looks worse than the field I lifted up the harrow on the drill and didn't roll. I wonder if the narrow press wheels on the drill push the seed too deep into the loose soil. Then when you roll it you bury it. I'm about ready to round up the clover field and replant. If I had not ran off the Gopher Valley with the drill tractor I'd try to talk my brother into this program. I would really like to have something grow correctly the first time around. We kind of need the money.
A note on the disk problem from yesterday.
I sent my trusty employee down to check the wheel bearings on the drill and change the tire on the harrow. He comes back and tells me the tires have air and the wheel bearings are fine on the disk. He pulls the harrow tire and takes it to get it repaired.
We go to move the harrow and he neglects to tell me he brought back the tire-so I drug it round in a planted field to get it away from the cultipacker. He says, "well we didn't have the aircompressor. I don't know what you wanted to do. You were on the phone." 
The disk. "Oh I thought those tires were ok. How could you tell the wheel bearing was out, the disk was locked up in the air? It was fine when I run it."
So, the bearing cage was sticking out through the grease seal on one hub... The valve stem had partially gone inside the rim on the tire..
Then there was the FORTY (40) foot 8" mainline pipe that was 10 feet out in the ryegrass hay field. I don't know whose fault it was. The guy who left it there or the person who cut the hay. I just know it is a real shame to drive down 20 foot of a 40ft pipe when we don't have that many good ones left.
Then there is the fact that two harrows have been run into and partially through my Hesston 1340 disk mower. If you know there is a possiblity of crap out in the field you could at least wash the !@#$%^&*ing tractor windows...
I do not want to work today.
I woke up a 5:30 and stared at the ceiling for an hour and a half.
What stupid thing will go wrong today?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

What was wrong with my world

I needed to pick up some piles of old hay at what is left of my farm. They are the remains of the days when I did a hundred acres of hay, had to stack half of it outside, and then it didn't sell. Kind of a painful experience.
I pushed it all into a pile a couple years ago and have been turning it every year since. It is nicely composted, but full of strings.
I got my friend to load it for me. I was to meet him up at Gopher Valley at 10:00. Well, I had truck problems. We are out of gas at the farm. The door wouldn't shut on the truck.
The door would not stuck because when my helpers fixed the door after the hinge busted, they did not replace the twisted off bolts that should have attached the fender.
Thus, the fender popped out and the door wouldn't open. So my ever resourceful employee got a hammer and a block of wood and hammered the finder back. This stretched the metal so that now you can't close the door. I got it sort of back in shape and drilled new bolt holes.
But, then I discovered 2nd and 4th gears do not work correctly in the auxiliary transmission-the Brownie. It pops out of fourth and second is very noisy. This is in a 72 International tandem axle with a 24ft bed. Has a five and a four.
It was not the linkage and the transmission was full of fluid. I should have pulled the top off but I was in a hurry.
Once I got there I found I had more than one truckload. I took the first load home and discovered that the vermeer irrigator was in the way to unload. Made it past that and dumped. Then discovered that I used enough gas so that I could get back to Gopher Valley but not enough to get home. Fixed lunch for Derrick and I and we went back. I thought I would drive the stacker back. But the stacker battery was dead. Had to get a ride home with the neighbor. He thinks I should use his covercrop disk but I'm afraid to borrow from anyone. Too many things go wrong up there.
I get home and discover our tandem disk has a flate tire and a bad wheel bearing. I go to start the M670 super and the battery is dead. Then my brother says we need to go tho tractor pull meeting so another day is dead and gone... I keep going to sleep typing so I won't add anymore. Good night...

What is wrong with the world

I'm not feeling so well this morning. Wife is gone with S. to camp. She left me with a 2" thick steak and the admonition to BBQ it before it went bad as it was expensive. Now I should have sliced it in half so I would have 2 steaks 1" thick. I can handle that on the gas grill.
I was a little tired last night for no real reason as it was a Monday. Bro. and I sat on the steps and discussed farming while the steak simmered.
Finally I got tired of waiting and decided to eat. The steak was done just like the fine folks that eat in the fancy resturants like them. Nicely scorched on the outside and pink in the middle. It was pretty good. I salted it heavily with coarse salt, then doused it with garlic powder before putting it on the grill. Only problem is, that whole red business in the middle just makes me queasy. I couldn't find my infared thermometer so I was unable to check the center temp. I like to know it is done.
I had a little store-bought potatoe salad so I had a little feast. Only problem with that is that I think that 8 oz of steak that I ate-just settled in the bottom of my intestines.
And of course I had left over steak with my eggs this morning.
So, I'm sitting here waiting for the coffee to kick in and feeling like it will be a long day.
Somehow this whole situation got my thinking about the modern "low energy" flush toilet.
They don't work. They make me angry.
Now you may not think something as mundane as an everyday flush toilet could provide a commentary on the whole wrong trail the environmental movement has taken but let me explain.
I have just recently moved into the 21st century. I've always lived in 100 year old houses or at least houses much older than myself.
We now have an Energy Star rated highly insulated green star manufactured home. It has a little sticker on the crapper noting that it uses less water.
This is a lie.
Now I don't think I have a larger bladder or longer intestines than anyone else. I try not to use a lot of paper and the nice plush kind is kind of expensive and my wife threatens to buy the cheap stuff if I used too much. But, I have to flush this thing at least THREE times per (how do we say this and be polite) um, er, Evacuation, and twice per bladder empty. My daughter is much smaller and I have found what should have been a two flusher from her. If I don't just flush the dadburn thing every time I go into the bathroom my wife starts noting a smell of urine in the bathroom. So, someone else in the family is not pulling the handle twice.
So, the folks who do all the regulation, and supposedly a lot of testing, have set the size of the modern toilet tank. Probably some legislative committee with a lot of lobbyists and possible poop demonstrations and frequent potty breaks. And of course they got the tank size wrong.
So, all around this great country  we have water saving crappers which actually use more water because you have to flush them three times instead of one time.
Morons run this country....

Sunday, July 12, 2009


We are having a continual high moisture level. Big drops at times, small drops at other times. Glad I have all the hay baled. Not so happy we have three or four blocks setting outside the barn. One was a very nice block that came apart when moved. Kind of miscounted the layers and pretty much nailed the rafters when putting it in.
Here are photos of what is left of my farm. I don't think I can be accused of being a BTO any longer... IF ever. When you see signs advising of logging trucks on the road you know you are in the hills.

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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