While I was in Portland a couple weeks ago, Don was incredibly busy. Not only do we still have large outstanding orders for tankards...
...but there are endless projects we want to accomplish before the snow flies.
Lately we've been stepping outside in the mornings and feeling the breath of fall in the air. The blistering heat we've had all summer appears to be finished, and the days are (thankfully) cooler. This morning it was a decidedly brisk 40F. We don't get much by way of autumn color around here, but what little we get is already setting in.
In other words, time's a-wastin'. Gotta get some stuff done.
The most obvious change I noticed when I got home from my trip was thirty tons of hay in the barn -- a wonderful sight. Thanks to the diligence of a neighbor who is always on the lookout for good hay prices (and who has a flatbed trailer, so we pay him to haul for us), we got this hay for a wonderful price.
Thirty tons is more than enough to get us through the winter; but since we feed the animals in the bull pen year-round, we like to have extra on hand.
We've had a freaky weird summer, much hotter and drier than normal, and all the crops are accelerated. Farmers were cutting hay in June rather than July or August. At the moment hay prices are still a bit high; but we're going to keep an eye on things, and if prices come down as we think they might, we may obtain another thirty tons and tarp it as a hedge. In other words, get another year's worth of hay. Under "bleep" conditions, animals can eat two-year-old hay, though of course it will lose some of its nutritional value.
Another project he accomplished was cleaning out the bull pen. Unlike the lovely feed boxes Don built under the awning by the barn, we still fed the bull (and any animals we tucked in with him for breeding or companionship) over the fence. Needless to say, this was wasteful and resulted in an ever-growing mound of buildup. Additionally, it meant the animals fed outside regardless of rain or snow, so any leftover hay quickly became inedible.
As the mound rose higher, we had to tie cattle panels (some call them hog panels) to the pen rails so the bull couldn't jump over the top. Clearly this massive mound of hay/manure buildup was a problem we needed to address.
So while I was in Portland, and while the rest of the herd was in the pasture, Don let the bull and companion cows into the adjacent paddock (we call it the "feed lot") and closed them out of the bull pen. He opened the gate to the woods, pulled the tractor around into the bull pen, and started hauling out that mound of old rotting hay. My goodness, what a difference to see bare ground once more.
He made an enormous pile on the edge of the woods. In a year, two at most, this will decompose into beautiful "black gold," perfect for gardens.
Recently he's started another project in the bull pen: expanding the shed to accommodate more animals.
Once the expansion is done, he'll build feed boxes inside the sheds to keep the food (and livestock) dry in inclement weather. Obviously this will make things more comfortable for the beasties, as well as be more efficient with hay.
Don also plans to build an enclosed awning outside the bull pen with access to the sheds, so we can feed from inside instead of feeding in rain or snow.
Other "must do" projects before winter is to install gutters on the barn so the feedlot and bull pen don't get saturated in mud. We also want to build another chicken coop -- this one in the yard -- as additional protection for the ladies. Time will tell whether we can get everything done before the snow flies, or if some things must wait for spring.
Incidentally, this is how a farm is built: bit by bit, little by little, project by project.