Farming is hard work year round, during the hot humid days of summer, the wet days of Spring/Fall and the chill of winter. There’s always maintenance and always unexpected tasks.
Some of my farm related posts gloss over the details of day to day operations. This week, I’ll give you a taste of the kinds of things that require attention.
Our 1.5 miles of trails, our mushroom operations, and manure management all depend on the Terex Front Loader, at PT-30. Last week, it began leaking hydraulic fluid (basically 30W oil) so rapidly that the roadways are covered with oil stains and the hydraulic fluid tank level is in the red zone. I crawled under the front loader and found that fluid was dripping from the lowest point of the protective under carriage pan - clearly a hose had come loose or an o-ring had flattened. The Terex weights 3000 pounds and I have no way of lifting it to remove the protective plates and do an inspection. Thus we needed to arrange a truck to take it to a service center. I used a pressure washer to remove some of the driveway oil stains but it has not worked very well. I'm trying a variety of detergents to loosen the oil from the asphalt, but no magic bullet thus far.
We have an eXMark Turf Tracer mower to manage our acres of pasture and fields. Many of these areas have not been consistently trimmed in the past and under the 2 foot tall grasses were hidden rocks, logs, and other debris. The very powerful mower uses a hydraulic power take off to turn the blades. The debris was simply chopped up - yes the mower cut off the tops of rocks. Although the end result of all my summer mowing has been beautiful trails and pastures, the mower blades were severely worn. I had to lift the 550 pound mower, unbolt the blades, and sharpen them with a grinder - it’s all part of standard farm maintenance. Now that everything is trimmed I’ve removed all rocks and debris so the blades should not be abused again.
Our new baby alpaca, Sunny, is growing up. She’s learned how to take a dust bath, how to use the alpaca designated poop piles, and how to munch the romaine lettuce from our hoop house that we give the animals every night. The vet called to say that her IgG measured low the day after her birth. Like humans, Alpaca get their first antibodies from mother’s milk since they do not pass the placenta. Sunny was a little slow to start eating, so she was delayed in getting these antibodies. The vet recommended we monitor her temperature daily for early detection of any infection. The normal body temperature of a baby alpaca is 101.5-102.5. Anything greater than 103 is a fever. Every night for the past week, Kathy and I have taken her rectal temperature. It’s generally about 101.8, no fever. Imagine the fun of corralling a 20 pound with the personality of a 2 year old for daily temperature taking!
Of the 3 guinea nests in the forest, one is now abandoned. Raccoons ate the majority of the eggs and we candled the remainder to discover they were non-viable. Mom now spends the night safely in the coop. The other 2 nests were poorly managed - guineas are terrible parents. I used straw to build warm, self contained incubation areas and now the guineas at least have a chance of hatching their young. The ducks continue to incubate 9 guinea eggs that the guineas had abandoned.
One of the oyster mushroom areas finished its 3 month spawn run and my task last weekend was to remove 2000 pounds of poplar logs from the black plastic trash bags that served as incubators/humidfiers for the wood and spawn. We now have about 10,000 pounds of poplar in production for oyster mushrooms and look forward to a major Fall harvest.
We continue to maintain the bee hives. We spun 9 full frames of perfect summer honey (mostly clover) late one night last week by the light of a lantern. We’ve used the hot summer days to melt bees wax in our solar melter and at this point we have 10 pounds of wax for votive candle making when then weather turns old and we focus on indoor tasks.
Although the weekend was filled with needed maintenance, there was a bit of joyful harvest. We picked over 100 pounds of cucumbers and are using our own cider vinegar to make sweet/hot pickles. We also picked 50 pounds of zucchini, japanese pumpkin, peas, beans, and tomatoes. This weekend we’ll harvest the carrots, eggplant, and kale.
The next week will be more harvesting, more pickle making, more bee work, more animal care, and planning for our fall crops. There is no rest for a farmer during the glorious weather of mid summer.