Day 195 – this is more like it

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We got a break in the “hot, chance of thunderstorms” weather, so while I was at farm markets, Denny mowed, raked and baled the rest of the first cutting of hay.  We still have some smaller areas to mow and bale, but this is the “big-un” hay field.  Every year we try to come up with a better way to mow it, and it seems like every year the weather is such that we can mow according to plan for the first round, then have to just lay it all down and get it baled.

Seven hours on a tractor is not a fun time (which is why we’re always trying to find another way to do this), but it’s all mowed and baled, and that’s good.  We’ll let the bales cure for a few days, then load them up on a wagon and move them to the barn for storage.  That will take awhile because we can only move them 7 bales at a time – 5 bales on the wagon, plus 1 bale on each of the tractors.  We will be very happy when the barn is full of hay.

The grass in the areas we baled earlier is growing in wonderfully – I hope that means a good second cutting as well.  We wish we could bale the back pasture, but since that’s the main pasture the cows hang out in, it’s pretty tore up (and there are lots of rocks), and would be too rough on the equipment.  We’re working on ideas for to be able to bale it, though!

This certainly isn’t the easy way to do things, but we think it’s the better way.  By mowing the pastures, it keeps most of the weeds to a minimum, takes off the grasses the cows “don’t like” (although they love those grasses as dry hay!), and since we usually don’t mow until the grass has gone to seed, we reseed the pastures for free.  Winning all around.

Day 192 – we’re going to time this

The chicken yard has greenery taller than me (5’4″) because the chickens eat what they want and leave the rest to grow.  And boy, has it grown this year with all the rain!

The goats finished eating the yard around the farmhouse and we were discussing where to put them next – options were under the clothesline/in front of the garden, in the area between the garage and the hen coop, or in the chicken yard.  Seeing as it’s not raining, and the hay needs to be mowed/raked/baled, chicken yard it is – it’s already fenced in, and the only modification we needed to do was fence off the 2 little apple trees so they didn’t get eaten down to the trunk.  That got taken care of today, and about 7:30 this evening, we installed Minnie and the goats.  We’ll see if there are still 5 goats and 1 Pyr in there tomorrow morning.

Any guesses on how many days they’ll need to mow it down?

Day 189 – sound of silence

This is what quiet looks like around here:

This doesn’t happen very often, maybe twice a week – that’s how often we usually move the goats!  They let us know in very loud voices when they think their pen area has been eaten down too much – that usually means that they can stay in that spot for about 2 more days.  We don’t move them until they’ve eaten everything they possibly can, even if they don’t “like” it.  It’s pretty funny to get chewed out by a goat while they have a mouthful of gone-to-seed grass in their mouth.

We’ve had an abundance of chicory this year, and the goats love it.  This is an area directly across from where they are now, and you can see how much chicory is there.

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The chicken yard is also overrun with it, so that’s where they will go next, after we fence off the fruit trees that grow there.  We don’t let them eat everything, just most!

I’m sure by tomorrow, they will be complaining about the quality of the grass, and how they’re going to fall over any minute due to starvation.

And when we move them again, everything will be eaten down to the ground, there will be goat poo for the chickens to scratch around in, and the whole area will have received a free layer of fertilizer to grow the next round of goat feed.  Our cost?  The materials (panels, goat hut) and time.  Well worth not having to use a gas lawnmower – mowers don’t fertilize!

Day 177 – baling days

177If you want it to rain, make hay.  At least that’s how it seems around here.  Denny got this field mowed and raked. Then it rained.  Next day (or was it 2 days later?) I went out with the tedder, spread out the hay, then re-raked it.  He finished raking so I could go to Troy and started baling.  About 5 rows from being finished with baling, the skies opened. It’s not fun baling wet hay, although this isn’t the first time we’ve done so – sometimes you just need to finish the job.

As they dry, we’ll keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t start molding or getting funky.  Then off to the barn they’ll go, to be stored for winter.  It’s interesting to watch the bales dry if they’ve been rained on – by watching the ends of the bales, we can see the progression of green changing to yellow/brown when dry, kind of like a bulls-eye.  We make them loose enough that they will dry all the way through to the center.

Without good grass (and hay), we don’t have good animals, so this pictures really sums up what Innisfree is about – grass farming!

 

Day 173 – how to make hay, part 2

173After mowing the grass, letting it dry, and raking it into windrows, out comes the baler.  There are round balers, like the one we have, and there are square balers – both kinds come in all sizes.  We can actually make up to almost 5 foot tall round bales, but choose to make 3.5 foot round bales – they’re easier to move around and store.  Everyone has a different set up – this is what works for us.

(A round baler like ours)

Basically, the baler is pulled behind the tractor and has tines that sweep the hay into the baler.  It rolls up to make the bale, then when the sensor goes off to tell us that it’s large enough, we start the wrapping process.  Two rolls of baling twine are on each side of the baler, then fed through to the inside of the baler, the wrapped around the hay, and cut off at the end of the process (it’s all mechanized – we just push a few buttons to start each process).  When that part is done, another button opens the back of the baler and the bale is pushed out.  Bale rolls to the ground, the back comes back into place and the process starts all over again.

And “just like that” we have winter grass for our animals.  The last step is to get it into the barn where it will be out of the elements and ready to go come winter.

The pasture, with all of the tall grass gone, is now ready to start regrowing.  We’ll let it rest for a while, then open it back up for the cows to graze.  And because we let the grasses go to seed before we mow, we’ll hopefully have an even better pasture next year.

 

Day 171 – how to make hay, part 1

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Not to be snarky, but hay starts like this – grass!  It has to be pretty tall, or (like we discovered last year) it doesn’t want to hold together very well and will not make a good bale of hay.

Now the machinery enters the picture.  We have a haybine (like a combine for corn/beans, but it cuts hay), a rake and a round baler.  The haybine is different than a lawnmower in that it cuts the grass at the bottom of the stalk, then spits it out the back in a pile, instead of chopping the grass to shreds and spreading it all over.

The next picture is after we’ve let the grass dry out, then rake it into windrows.  Turning it with the rake allows the bottom grass to dry better, and making windrows makes it easier for the baler to to its job.  The piles aren’t even because the amount of grass isn’t even.  We don’t notice that when mowing the yard, but it’s pretty apparent when raking hay into windrows.
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This is a rake similar to ours.

You actually can make little square balers to bale the grass at your house. http://oak-hill-homestead.blogspot.com/2007/09/hay-baling.html is just one example.

Day 166 – goat hut

166Behold Mobile Goat Hut, version 3!  Wood frame base with swivel castor wheels, PVC supports, flexible plastic “walls” and corrugated aluminum roofing.  The silver bits are tape used to seal the corners and overlaps – keep the wind from ripping anything apart!

We put cattle panel around the whole thing, both to provide some sturdiness to the flexible plastic walls (our goats like to push on things) and to enclose the other 8×8′ half of the goat mover.

They are on the first part of their yard mowing routine, and will probably be moved every few days, depending on how big of a section we enclose.  To the right you can see we’re using corral panel with cattle panel chained to the inside – if we don’t use the cattle panel, they will slip right under the corral panel and be off on adventures.

Minnie is staying with them – they are “her herd” to protect.  But since this is a smaller area, we’ll be taking her into the big pasture (after making sure the cows are out and the gate is shut) to run around and be silly.  She loves the enclosed area – she’s usually snoozing in there during the day.

This is why we don’t mow the grass – we have 5 goats who do it for us, plus they fertilize at the same time!

 

Day 159 – yards and animals

IMG_0224This is our north yard (on the right, you can see the concrete ‘railing’ of our porch steps).  To many people, this would be a hog mess of a yard and should be mowed within an inch of its life.  To us, it’s goat and chicken feed and we’re not going to mow it – the goats will.  The chickens have already been working on it, and they love it even more now that it’s gone to seed.  It’s pretty funny to watch them jump up to peck the seeds out, or snip the stalks with their beaks to knock down the grass and eat the seeds.

We don’t want to use our limited resources (gas, time, energy) to do something that the animals can do just as well, and need to do. They get more benefit out of eating the grass (and for the chickens, the little wiggly critters that live in tall grass) than we ever would by mowing it.  And there’s free fertilizer, which makes the grass grow better the next year, which give better grass for the animals, etc, etc.

Not everyone can do this with their yard – but what is one change you can make to how you manage your piece of Earth?  Maybe it’s planting native wildflowers, trees and/or ground cover instead of spreading grass seed.  Maybe you can have a couple chickens and a portable coop in the backyard to eat the grass, and all you have to do is trim the edges.  Find something that works for you and your space!

 

Day 158 – cordelia

Welcome to the newest member at Innisfree on the Stillwater – Cordelia the goat, also known as Dilly.  She comes to us by way of some friends of ours at church (we also got Skittles and Ginny from them) and has been assimilating into her new routine over the last few days.  She’s still not quite sure what to think of Minnie (who is thrilled to have another goat to herd around), but, as animals do, they are all working it out.

Day 131 – greener pastures

After spending the winter in the rooster yard/test garden, it was time to move the 4 goats and 1 Pyr somewhere else.  That “somewhere else” is the bale yard, a fenced in area where we store our hay bales.

First, to put cattle panel around the remaining hay and straw bales to keep the goats off of them.  They would eat them, but would also try to scale them.  I’d like to wring their necks sometimes, but would not like to see them squished by a large bale that rolled on them.  That was our workout for the day.

Second, to move the goat hut – easy enough with the tractor.

Third, moving said goats and dog.  This has gone really well, and really bad, before.  Usually the goats get distracted by ALL THIS GRASS on the way to their new area, and it’s chaos.  But armed with a white bucket full of oats, and Denny and the dog behind the goats and me, we successfully transferred them to the bale yard.  Minnie made sure all 4 of them were present and accounted for, and the serious business of eating began.

I checked on them a bit ago, and it’s a good thing they have long legs, because their bellies would be dragging the ground otherwise!

Flower did not want her picture taken today.