Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Cleaning the barn

We're getting low on hay.

This isn't surprising. Last summer we got a very very bad yield of grass hay from the 25-acre parcel across from us (the absentee owner lets us mow and bale the acreage each year). Yields have been declining for a long time, and last summer hit a new low: only eight tons total, or about 1/3 ton per acre. Good productive fields should yield about two tons per acre.

A fair fraction of those eight tons was pretty lousy stuff, too -- chock full of such inedibles as cheat grass, hawk weed, and St. John's wort (which dries to stick-like brittleness and is like chewing wire for the cattle).

Unsurprisingly we had to supplement by buying some better-quality grass hay to get our animals through the winter. However we didn't get enough, so we just ordered in another ten tons.

To get ready for this incoming shipment, we wanted to clean out not just the barn, but the open area in front of it. You know the saying: nature abhors a vacuum. So do vacant places on a farm.

Don doesn't need much of an excuse to use the tractor. We chained up and moved four tractor tires a neighbor brought for use in the tire garden...

...moved the bucket attachment of our old tractor...

...and moved some old rotting hay bales that had absorbed so much water they must have weighed 100 lbs. each. (We moved them into the pasture to burn later on.)

Then we tackled the inside of the barn.

We had accumulated a surprising amount of hay bale twine. This is highly useful stuff (we've toyed with naming our farm Baling Twine Ranch or something) but it can be overdone. We have thousands of strings of twine and don't need it all. So, in the interest of efficiency, we chucked it into the back of the pickup for a future date with the dump.

It made rather a pretty and colorful tableau once we moved the truck into the sunshine.

In fact, I found it very artistic. Don termed it psychedelic spaghetti.

He used the fork/tine attachment on the bucket of the tractor to scoop up the old hay on the barn floor. Normally the old hay wouldn't be a big issue, but since Shadow and Ninja have been in the barn for a couple of weeks, the floor had a fair bit of manure on it. Can't set hay bales on top of manure.

The tines lifted much of the old stuff in a sort of mat...

...and revealed the gravel flooring of the barn. After a bit of work, most of the barn floor was clean enough...

...and the pile in the field was quite sizable.

Shadow and Ninja watched the progress.

Ninja was fascinated by the tractor, thus proving that a boy's interest in mechanical stuff crosses the species divide.

A few days later, a local farmer brought in the first load.

Beautiful leafy stuff, second-cutting.

Compare it to what we have in the barn at present.

The chickens wasted no time in exploring.

And Shadow wasted no time in munching.

The bales were huge -- on average about 1100 lbs each -- and lay like gigantic play blocks. The nooks and crannies proved irresistible to both chickens...

...and calves alike.

Don tried to load those massive bales into the barn, but they proved too heavy for our tractor. A neighbor (with a beefier tractor) is coming over the weekend to move them for us.

Now we're set for hay until summer!


  1. Good looking hay they brought you. Have you thought about fertilizing the field across from you? Or maybe you already have and it needs reseeding. If they are going to let you keep cutting it yourself I would look into it.

  2. I wish I had all that baler twine. Part of my prep list is a barrel full of USED baler twine.

  3. My mom always braided the twine into collars for the animals. We had several large nails on the back wall of the supply room in our barn and it was always my job when I undid a bale to straighten the twine and hang it up for later use.

  4. needs reseeding. if you can't plow see if someone will seed it with a drill. good to keep the land productive. could be a close at hand lifesaver some day.

  5. what type of tractor do you have and can it lift 1000 pounds?

  6. do a soil sample to find out what it needs. PH may be out of wack, generally acidic soil will allow unwanted plans to grow in place of grasses. Then top with a no-til drill, most state's NRCS office has a no-till they rent by the acre planted. If you spend the dolars you may want to get a contract with the land owner so someone else doesn't benifit at your expense.

  7. Was the issue with the loader not being able to lift 'em, or not enough rear weight on the tractor? (tractor tips)

  8. I would recommend using the spoiled hay to mulch between your garden tires [1] suppresses grass and weeds [2] when the soil in the tires needs a year off to reduce crop damaging infestations dump the soil in the mulch and move the tires to another site and re-fill with new soil. then the old soil and mulch together for future use after a year fallow. Your yields will increase.--ken

  9. oops, and I forgot, before you mulch with the old hay sow some worms on the ground and cover them with the hay. that really gets things off to a great start--ken

  10. Second-cut grass hay is primo stuff! That's top of the line in my book.

    Just Me

  11. Now...not being an owner of livestock, but being an owner of chickens, after going through the effort of getting the manure out of the barn, at you not worried about your chickens just doing what chickens do all over the new, clean bales? Or is that such a small amount that it's not a big deal?

  12. One of the pictures shows you still have the old Ford 8N. I had read your account of the problem it has and can assure you it's a simple fix. If I remember, you said it runs for a bit then dies and after sitting, it will run for a bit and die, ad infinitum.
    Problem: quite common in these old 8Ns is the gas tank vent is plugged. To verify, run it until it begins to starve out, then crack the gas cap, to vent the tank and it should smooth right out.
    To clear the vent, you'll have to remove the hood to access the top of the gas tank. You'll see a rusty spot at a high point of the tank. Scrap off the rust and clean out the little pin-hole vent. DON'T MAKE ANY SPARKS!

  13. For Don; You're gonna need a bigger tractor...

  14. Please don't burn all that beautiful old hay! It makes great mulch or brown stuff for a compost pile, Bedding for chickens, etc.

  15. Have you communicated with the owner of the parcel about your declining low quality hay yields? I don't know how you have negotiated your hay harvest with him/her but if you are doing this to keep the land cleared off it may soon no longer be worth your effort to do so, putting gas, wear on equipment and time into a inferior return. It may be in the owner's best interest to upgrade his property or pay you to do so. Just a suggestion.


  16. The bailing wire photo would make a GREAT Jig Saw puzzle.

  17. Here in the midwest when you take hay off ground you need to put back something. Have you gotten a soil test to see if you need to put on some turkey litter, lime or such? Declining yields is usually a sign you are mining the soil rather than working it. A visit to your extension agent should help. I realize this is not YOUR land but being lent to you by the owner, all the same, taking off the hay depletes the soil. Weather you own it, rent it or just have the privilege of using it you need to put something back.

  18. I am 70ears old, new to all this tech stuff. goes. I grew up on an acreage - 10 acres. Your operation reminds me so much of experiences as a child. It's a great way for children to grow up, After spending a year with a variety of animals, there is not a great need for sex education and several of the other educations that are being shoved at today's children. Keep up the good work..