Alfalfa makes wonderful hay. It is delicious, nutritious, and prolific. We cut it the first time in July, then poured on the irrigation water and cut it again.
We were late in getting the water back on the hay, so the production on the second cutting was only a fourth of the first cutting. But the new crop is finer than the first cutting, and it has substantially more protein and energy, as well as palatability. It is just the stuff to feed late in the spring when the cows’ nutritional needs are the highest, and when they are tempted by the green grass that as yet has very little feed value.
I cut the first field a week ago, when the temperature was in the 80’s with a dry wind. But one can certainly tell that the days are shorter and the nights are longer and cooler. Where first cutting may take 36-48 hours to dry enough to bale, this scant crop took four times as long. In fact, there was a heavy frost this morning!
Another factor in the drying process was a series of thunder-showers. They weren’t really enough to wet things down and green things up – just enough to get in the way. The weather is forecast to be in the 70’s for awhile now. Ted and I appreciate the cooler days.
One of the other projects for the week was to begin bedding a culvert for a new crossing into the hayfield below the house.
Access to this field for the last hundred years has been a ford further down. It drifts in badly during the winter, however, and requires the balewagon to drop down into the creek and climb back out with every load of hay. Now that we have a dump truck, and have found a couple of sources for dirt, it is time to upgrade.
I was quite embarrassed, however, when we dropped the first 24” culvert into the creek. I had been contemplating the project for ten years, and always figured that I’d better put in two 24” culverts. The creek very seldom runs enough water to fill one, but it is wise to provide for the anomalies.
We had no sooner dropped the first 24” culvert in the creek than I had an epiphany. I pulled up the calculator on my Palm and did some quick math. One 36” culvert would carry more water than two 24’s I confirmed – and it would be faster, easier, and cheaper than two 24’s, as well as far less likely to plug up. I quickly hooked up to the trailer, loaded the two 24’s and hurried to town to trade for 36” culvert.
Many people don’t appreciate “book-learning”, but here was the practical application. The formula πr2 was burned into my brain 50 years ago, and now it would save me both time and money!
Ted continued to haul dirt from the knob in the hayfield up west and deposit it atop the culvert, and in the roadway. The roadway had been eroding for a hundred years, and was significantly below the level of the contiguous fields. That made it the natural pathway for excess water – which resulted in the massive erosion event of this spring. It had also been subject to drifting snow. Now that we had a source for dirt, and the means to haul it, we continued to add fill to bring the road back up to level. The next step will be to top it with gravel hauled up from town.
With the horsebarn wall completed we began the process of cleaning up. For five years or more we have had the loft floor supported by jacks, posts, and a massive beam. Today we were able to dismantle that support structure – the barn is now sitting on a solid foundation again!
The weeds are still giving me grief! I found another patch of knapweed this week, and expended another two back-packs of spray. A fellow can seldom get all of the plants in any patch of weeds, and sometimes a new patch can go for several years before it is discovered. And of course any weed that is allowed to go to seed will keep the infestation regenerating for another three years.
Another project has been the removal of some of the accumulation of scrap metal. There were three old pull-type combines littering the landscape, that had been bothering me for years. I hauled the first one to town on my way to get a load of gravel, and two more were hauled away later. Scrap metal prices are high enough that it pays to cut it up and sell it. It is soothing to my soul to look at grass rather than rusting hulks!
And thus goes fall on the ranch: dozens of small projects – each of them according to weather and opportunity. Boring, it isn’t!