The hoop house veggies are up and going great! Be sure and check out what produce is available on the "This Week" page on our website. http://www.mitchellfamilyfarm.us/this_week.htm
Baby piggies! Lucy had ten healthy rambunctious piglets last week and they’re sure up and going good. We will be taking pre orders for pastured pork so we’ll keep you updated.
It is time to get your name on the 2010 CSA waiting list if you haven’t done so already! Current CSA members will be given the first opportunity to sign up again for the 2010 CSA season and then everyone on the waiting list will be given the next chance. If you would like to be on the waiting list and are unsure whether you are or not feel free to contact us. We will close the waiting list October 24th so be sure to get in touch with us before then!
Now, let me see if I can remember where we left off with chapter one…oh yeah! After finding the Ford’s engine wouldn’t run we felt like we needed to finish baling hay off our neighbor’s field. We’d been cutting their field when the Ford broke down. Our family is blessed with wonderful neighbors and they loaned us their tractor to bale with. Unfortunately the Kubota is just a little to small to run the square baler.
Despite using the borrowed tractor, it took us quite some time to finish baling that field. There was a lot of wire grass and, as the name implies, it’s tough as wire to cut. Mowing as much as we could each day before needing to rake and bale what hay was ready, we hacked away at sections of the field. Does this picture give you a little idea how slow the cutting was? This picture was taken before the Ford broke down… If I recall correctly the tractor was moving!
After fighting it for awhile Dad finally bought all new ledger plates for the mower, even though the old ones didn’t look too bad. When we replaced the ledger plates it only made sense to slide in a spare new sickle bar as well. It was almost a blessing not to have the Ford while trying to cut wire grass because we couldn’t have gone slow enough using the Ford. With Kubota’s hydrostatic drive we could go whatever speed the mower needed to cut at. I’m sure it saved the Ford’s clutch to use Kubota, but the Kubota doesn’t have a set of rear hydraulics to raise and lower the mower… When the mower gets plugged by a rat’s nest or something we usually would’ve backed up and raised the mower’s bar a little while backing until the obstruction came off. Since there weren’t any hydraulics available we had to just back up without raising it, and If that didn’t dislodge it, we had to shut everything down and climb off to clear the obstruction. Oh well, it may be all for the better anyway…it does develop patience!
Jena with more "help" than she knows what to do with!
Since the mower was still getting clogged quite often, we pulled our new sickle back out, popped the end section off and riveted a section-and-a-half on to replace the single end section. Thankfully, after all our mower repairs and adjustments it chewed through the wire grass much better!
About the time we got the Ford’s transmission put back together Dad hit a deer that ran in front of him on his way to work. We were very thankful he was about stopped by the time they collided, but the deer still bent up White Subie’s hood and messed up the headlights. We were also thankful that since he wasn’t too far from home the car could limp home by driving slow. "All" that need replaced were the headlights and a couple hoses. While the car ain’t gonna look pretty, we beat some of the dents out, straightened a few pieces, bolted the front of the hood back together (it has "silver studs" in its hood now) and Subie is currently in serviceable shape.
We are indebted to Dad’s friend, Ryan, who analyzed the seriousness of the damage and made recommendations on what needed replaced. Our family also really appreciated Ryan’s dad, Jim, who came out and got the worst bent parts straightened back out.
Dad really felt as though things were after him that same morning he hit the deer. After bringing his white Subaru home he headed back out to work in Mom’s car. On his way to work Dad had another near collision with a deer and shortly afterward he saw a couple of calves that were almost up on the road!
I ran several weeks behind on renewing strawberries this year, but I did finally get it done. This summer’s weather has been very interesting and at the point when I renewed strawberries it was really dry. I was very thankful for an inch of rain the Lord sent that night after renewing all our strawberries!
The blackberry yields were way down this year and we had a lot of winter-killed canes for some unknown reason. Thankfully we did have enough to divide blackberries among all the CSA shares.
While we were waiting on parts for the Ford, Dad and I worked on getting the horse-drawn mower’s tongue in. It took us several times of working on it a few minutes here and there, but we finally made shims to snug up the fit and bolted a new tongue in place.
July 4, with help and encouragement of a CSA member, we nominated Mom to go to town and pick out just a few fireworks and a watermelon… Shhhh! It was a store-bought melon as the local watermelons weren’t ripe yet. We enjoyed a break and the fireworks later that evening. Jena and G-Jean dressed up in their red, white and blue for church that Sunday.
We’ve hooked Belle and Blaze up to their sickle mower once, but Blaze was got pretty nervous so we unhooked them and worked with other things until we could end on a pretty good note. One problem may have been the sun had started to set a little and I had unthinkingly hooked Blaze on the opposite side from where she’s used to working. At any rate I plan to pull the mower with Kubota and allow both horses to check it out while it’s in operation before hooking them back up to it again.
I’d started pulling the horse drawn mower up onto the grass so there wouldn’t be so much racket from its iron wheels on gravel when we hooked the horses up, but Mom decided to jump in and help too…Dad thought is was a little humorous so snapped this shot.
On July 15th, as soon as the dew was off the hay, Dad went out and raked what hay was ready to bale and then started baling what Granddad had raked the night before. It was an overcast day with 20% chance of rain. We’d been praying for rain, but even though others around had gotten rain, we’d missed a few rain showers the week before so I guessed we’d probably not even get to see a sprinkle. My was I wrong!
I was working on other things around the house while Dad started baling up what Granddad had raked. I suddenly felt a little drop of rain, and then another and another. Overhead the clouds really didn’t look very serious and soon the sprinkles stopped. A little later there came a few more sprinkles and then a very, very light shower… Deciding I’d better try to start picking up bales while Dad finished baling (Jena was away trimming horses) I got everything rounded up and took Kubota out with a trailer. There weren’t very many sprinkles coming down, but the air felt damp. After picking up a few bales by myself a light shower passed over us and Dad decided to help me pick up what he’d already baled instead of baling more. There were only about 50 bales to pick up. Dad jumped on Kubota and we took off as fast as the rough hay field would allow us to drive.
Our next shower of rain was a little more intense and lasted longer. When all the bales were picked up everything was too damp to bale more. Dad and I were also damp and now a light rain had set in. Looking west we started tearing lickity split for home as it looked like a good sized rain cloud was heading straight for us!
Yep, that rain cloud sure was heading straight for us! We closed the hay field gate and at nearly the same time gray clouds overhead let loose and dumped rain! There was about one-half mile to go down a gravel road by tractor, and we decided it would be better to just cover our hay pile and trailer once we got home rather than trying to unload hay off the trailer.
A rainbow showing over the chicken palace.
Did you know the Lord has an interesting sense of humor? At almost exactly the same time we got our hay pile covered (we are having to stack some hay outside on pallets and covering it with plastic) the rain subsided and left everything (us included) soaked. Dad and I couldn’t decide if it was going to rain more or not and since it was about 1:00 decided to change clothes and get a little lunch. That afternoon the skies were mostly clear and the sun was steaming us good!
Uncovering the hay pile and trailer Dad, Jena, Leah and I unloaded the trailer and salted the hay that had soaked up our 1/2" of rain. We also covered the hay pile again as insurance against more chance storms rolling through. Unfortunately the hay in the field wasn’t quite dry by that evening so we had to leave it lay in wind rows to dry.
Sunday was cooler with partially cloudy skies and we had plans to bale hay as soon as the dew burned off Monday morning. Remember we had been praying for a good soaking rain? Be careful what you ask the Lord for as he might just give it to you! Sunday night we received 2-4/10" of rain. From that Sunday night through Wednesday we received rain showers at least once a day and sometimes light showers for most of the day. The beautifully light rain showers allowed the ground to practically soak every drop of the 4-3/10" it rained up to Wednesday night. By Wednesday night the Lord had saturated the soil well for us and everything was ready to grow when the sun shone again!
Do you happen to recall we had been praying for a really good rain? A really, really good rain? Within a few hours Wednesday night we received 4" of rain and had water running everywhere! The ponds had started to go down a little, but they were full after that gully washer! Below is a picture of our moderately swollen creek. It had already started to go down after the rain when this photo was taken.
Along with rain that Wednesday night we also received some strong winds that managed to blow one-half of a hedge tree down that we’d used as a corner post for the hog’s fence. We’d wrapped rubber belting around the tree and then put woven wire over it in order to keep from killing the tree. The wind was blowing just right (or wrong however you want to look at it) and managed to blow that tree down full length right on top of the fence! With some careful chain saw work and the Kubota’s loader bucket I managed to get it off the fence and thankfully there hadn’t been too much damage done.
Back to haying adventures… After our 8+ inches of rain it finally dried out and we were able to begin putting up hay again. Be forewarned! We now have a wild new kid on the hay truck crew! I gave G-Jean a call one day to ask her a question about something…can’t remember what now, but in our conversation I mentioned that I was stuck on picking up hay until I got a hay truck driver back on the farm. Granddad was baling and Jena had gone to town with Leah while, of course, Dad was at work. I dare you to guess what G-Jean said after so many years of saying she couldn’t drive a truck with a trailer! "Give me 15 minutes and I’ll be ready!" My, what a shock!
I tried to tell G-Jean that Jena planned on being back home within an hour and I had plenty of other things I could fill the time with, but no, she wouldn’t have it any other way than her driving hay truck for me! After getting a few odds and ends tied up I had the truck and trailer ready to go. While G-Jean wanted me to drive the short stretch of road to our hay field destination she took over from there. When I’d given her a few pointers on how the hay pick up and everything worked she took off down the field, a little slow at first, and then gradually picking up speed.
Our first load of hay was small as we had finally gotten the hay to dry that had been rained on. This rained-on hay needed to be stacked separate from the rest since it wouldn’t make good feed for livestock, but will make great mulching material for the garden!
About the time G-Jean and I started loading up our second load of hay Jena and Leah drove up on the Honda. Yahoo! Reinforcements had arrived! G-Jean was having so much fun she wanted to keep driving so Jena and Leah helped me load the trailer. By the time we had finished loading our first full trailer of one hundred bales G-Jean was zipping up and down the field so fast we had to keep one hay hook well secured in the trailer load of hay while our other arm, with hay hook firmly held, grabbed bales racing up the hay pick up conveyor! Sometimes we even had four bales coming up at once! My hay hook illustration may be a little far fetched, but honestly, we did have four bales coming up the conveyor sometimes!
Below we’re unloading and stacking a trailer of hay onto the outside hay pile.
Dad came home shortly after we drove up with the first full load of hay and helped us unload it. G-Jean went back to her house while we unloaded the trailer, but said to "Be sure and give me a call when you’re ready to go for the next load! How did I miss all this fun all these years?!" Our following load (with G-Jean as driver) finished up the hay we had ready to bale that day, but I’m not quite sure what to think about our new hay crew member… We sure do love and appreciate her though! Since then G-Jean has helped pick up several more loads of hay so I don’t know what I got started now.
In order to finish up the neighbor’s hay we baled his meadow. As seems to be usual this year some piece of equipment had to come apart… Dad was raking along and all of a sudden the rake’s front cage and rake tooth assembly simply dropped down and fell to the ground! There was a cage height adjustment nut that had been wired to keep it from turning, but the bolt had apparently been vibrating loose underneath and had finally fallen out! There was a piece missing that basically acted as a washer for the nut to help hold the rake together, and we’ve never found it.
Dad, with his improvisation and creative mind, took off the Kubota’s three point draw bar and used it in place of the missing piece. After the cage was up where it belonged we discovered a rake tooth had apparently punctured one tire’s sidewall as it fell. Of course it would be the new tire we replaced this year! Since we had to get hay put up, the tire was no good and most local tire shops were closed, Dad adjusted one side of the rake to be higher than usual to compensate for the flat tire and when he tried raking a little it worked. Dad took off and started raking hay again.
I was baling while Dad raked and then G-Jean, Jena and Leah came out. Dad showed Leah how to rake so he could pick up bales with Jena and G-Jean. Apparently when the rake’s cage fell it stressed one of the pins that holds its bottom up because one side of the rake fell to the ground after raking for a little longer. Once again Dad found the solution when he looked in Kubota’s tool box and found a hitch pin that fit in the hole well enough to make do and we finished raking and baling!
At long last we were able to finish up all the haying we’re going to do this year. It was nearly the very end of August. That’s about two months later than we usually like to finish baling! Although, typically it is the end of July before we completely finish. I wish we could always have the cool weather we had the last few days of haying as it was beautiful and not having a scorching sun trying to roast you while picking up the bales was really nice!
Our last haying run was a marathon while baling our hay meadow and we set a new personal family record for the most bales hauled in one day. Granddad finished baling while G-Jean drove hay truck and, in rotation, as we could help (sometimes all of us at once when our schedules allowed) Dad, Jena, Leah and I loaded and unloaded three trailer loads of hay through the late afternoon. We ended up getting 347 bales off our meadow to put in the barn! Now, I know, if anyone has heard what hay crews used to haul that’s nothing since they’d usually do 1,000 or so in a day (with mechanical help I’ve heard three people can put up 3,000 in a day now) but for us not being in peak haying shape, and doing it all in one late afternoon/evening that was plenty for us! We finished up with lights, nearly topping out our pole barn and decided to call that good for the year. We still have more grass which we could have cut for hay, but we plan to graze it through the winter as stockpiled forage.
Below is a picture of our last load of hay this season. We piled it on higher than usual because there were just a few more bales in the field and we wanted to be FINISHED with haying for this year! Jena is atop the load with Tag and Caye while Leah watches them from the truck’s tailgate.
All told we baled 1840 small square bales of hay. 747 bales were native meadow grass hay while the remainder was mixed grass hay with sections having some big hop, other clovers etc. in it.
Chapter three of this summer update will have a bit more garden news. Till then…