My Tunes

Friday, June 22, 2012

More than you ever wanted to know about hay.

We have finally have our first cutting of hay up.  The weather has been bad for hay growers.  It's been so cold that the alfalfa was short in places because it needs warm weather to grow well.  When it was our regular time to cut, not only was the hay a bit short but it was raining as well.  I saw hay all over the Columbia Basin in the windrow in the pouring rain - a chilling sight indeed.  We waited and waited for a break in the weather.  The good thing was in the meanwhile the hay grew taller.  

There are a couple of big drawbacks to waiting so long to cut; the first one is the alfalfa could start to bloom, and that toughens it and lowers the protein.  Thankfully, it was so cool that the alfalfa put its energy into growing and not going to seed.  The other big drawback is that we get three cuttings here (they get four in the Basin) and delaying the first cutting shortens the time for the other two cutting to grow.

We bought a 'big' baler.  It makes bales that are 3' high, 4' wide and 8' long.  The bales weigh over 1300 pounds!  From what I understand, it's the most desirable size for the export market and the big buyers.  We still have the 'little' baler for the horse market.

Here's the baler getting delivered.  Notice the clouds!

Brad pulls it off the trailer.

Soon as we could, the alfalfa was cut and raked.  (We rake two windrows together).  The problem was Brad and William couldn't try out the baler until the hay was ready to bale....and there were problems with it.  Oh dear...they had a three days to get as much as possible baled before it rained again and the baler was not working right.  They got some baled and then it rained but thankfully the heavy rain went over us and landed in Spokane.  The rain we got was not enough to damage the hay, but it was stressful waiting it out.

Brad can fix anything but being unfamiliar with this type of baler, it took him a while.  The dealer who sold us it said he'd get a service man out from Moses Lake to look at it and if it was their fault they'd pay to get it going, but if it was operator error than we'd be hit with it.  Good old Brad really shines at this kind of thing and rode around atop of the thing for hours as William baled.  He found the problem and fixed it himself.  The problem was with the knotters.  The bales have six strings on them instead of the two on the small there are six knotters to deal with.  Brad found the problem and it was with the had a thing that was broke, missing or something.  Easy to fix and soon they were off and running.

Here is one of the big bales.  It was as solid as a rock and just as unmovable.

Brad sticks the moisture tester into the bale and takes a reading.  The moisture has to be just right.  Too moist and the hay goes moldy.

William is the hay baler these days.

It was the Summer Solstice when things really started to go well and the hay was finally baled.

He baled well into the night until it was finished.  Phew.. two more cuttings to go.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Tomatoes, Rattlesnakes and Gophers.

The picture below is of my tomatoes on June 1st.  I planted them out April 1st.  I had them protected by those little tepees you fill with water.  Mine were called 'Kozy-coats'.  I never thought they would work, but they did.  It even got down to 19 degrees F one night and the water inside the tubes were frozen solid and the plants were unharmed.  I'm really pleased.  I still cover them at night if it looks like it's going to freeze.  Last night it was down to 33 degrees F.  The plants are too big for the Kozy-coat tepees so I threw blankets over them.

I was weeding in the far side of my native plant area, which is not covered by the chicken security team, when I had a surprise at last shrub.  Since we have had chickens snakes keep away from the garden.  Most of the native plant area is too far away for the chickens to patrol, so I have to be on my toes for snakes.  Sure enough as I was bent over pulling up a few weeds from the base of a golden currant, a rattlesnake scooted out from it.

He went under a log and right then, for some reason, I lost my enthusiasm for weeding.  The next day I ventured out again to weed and disregarding the fact I wasn't wearing my glasses decided the shrub to be snake free...until I bend over and this came into focus....

He was hard to see coiled up and peaceful right between the shrub and the log.  I got my shovel and thought I could scoop him up into a bucket for relocating.  There was so much debris about I couldn't get the shovel under him and he went under his log again.

He was pretty laid back, which seems typical of the local rattlesnakes.  He made no attempt to strike at the shovel.  He could have bitten me the other day while I was weeding in fact.  From my experience, it seems the rattlesnakes are really mellow and just try to get out of the way, while the non-venomous have anger issues.  The pink arrows show where he is under his log. 

I called the snake team to sort things out for me.  They were complaining because they had better things to do.  Brad is having problems with the grabber he was going to use while William holds the young snake down.  I told William he better be careful because the snake would go up his pant leg, lol.

The snake isn't being hurt and continued to be mellow.

Brad gives up on the grabber and readjusts his snare.  William gets bored.  You can see the snake's log home right next to my golden currant.

Got him!  Notice William is not in the shot.

The little snake was moved away from my area.  I think that log should be moved because it's an ideal habitat for a snake.

I have been trying to catch this gopher that has been digging tunnels in my garden.  Because he chewed the roots of some baby trees and killed them, I was eager to catch him.  I came close to nabbing him twice but was unprepared to take him into custody.  My method of gopher hunting is simple; I put the hose down his holes and give him a good blast.  He will exit and run like hell for cover with me hobbling behind trying to grab his little tail.

I came up with a cunning plan that actually worked.  I got up at the crack of dawn and started shoving the hose down all the fresh tunnels.  He poked his head up as he was being pushed out by the flood of water behind him.  We were eyeball to eyeball and it was pretty tense.  He had a decision to make; go back into his hole and drown or face me.  It was a no brainer for him because he knows he can out run me.  Off he trots....hahaha.... not so fast little fellow...I scooped him up in a empty Miracle Grow container and he was mine.  I kept him for a few hours before I let him go in the sagebrush.  I wanted to see what he would eat.  I discovered gophers eat pretty much anything.  He was particularly fond of the carrots though.