Thursday, April 12, 2012

April Showers

It was raining this morning, and I hate working in the rain!  The grass is just turning green, however, and there is not enough growth for the cows to get more than a taste.  So I had to do my morning feed in chaps and a slicker.

The rain also interrupts my farming tasks for a few more days.  It had just dried out enough to begin plowing, after the snow of last weekend.  Of course the benefit is that with more moisture in the ground, the rewards for farming will be better worth the costs in time and fuel.

I’m glad of the rain, even if I hate it.  The winter was open, with no snow accumulation at the ranch.  Spring seems to be coming on sooner than usual.  It reminds of another year – 1985, I believe – when it was so dry that I never shut off my sprinklers from April until second cutting in August, and still never got enough water on to make a good hay crop.  But they say that the mountain snowpack is running 85-100% of average so far this year. 

Last year we got major precipitation in late May and all through June.   It was enough to cause major damage around our area:  
In fact, we didn’t even start to irrigate until after the first cutting was in the stack.

Yesterday afternoon it was dry enough to harrow a couple of hayfields.  This style of harrow is chain-blanket with spikes projecting out the bottom.  It scatters the accumulations of hay and manure where we have been feeding all winter, to keep the grass from being smothered.  

It isn’t too tough a duty for awhile, circling the fields at a pretty good clip.  A guest to the ranch a couple of years ago really looked forward to harrowing for a few afternoons!  I’m really itching to get some plowing done however, and would have preferred to be doing that.  But the harrowing has to be done before the hay gets growing.

One task that I accomplished on this rainy day was repair of the furnace.  It had quit ten days ago, and I found that the main blower squirrel-cage had come apart.  I ordered a new part, and it was delivered on Tuesday.  It took a couple of hours of cussing and running back up to the shop for different tools to get it installed, then I found another problem – a broken switch.

Kathi was already headed for Billings, and a replacement was available there.  So I installed that this morning after getting the feeding done, and we again have central heat.  Had I called a furnace repairman, he’d have charged $75/hour plus mileage – for all of the trip up to the ranch and back to town again.  And he’d have charged that all again for the second, and then third trip.  That would have added up to $500 – and he’d have  charged me double for the parts!

We got by for those ten days with auxiliary electric baseboards and a fireplace.  Many people look romantically back to the “good ol’ days”....  
Of course the old house – built in 1918 – had wood heat.  The men were excited in later years when they were able to rig up a buzz-saw to a tractor rather than sawing the firewood by hand.  And I’m sure the family was even more pleased whenever they could afford to buy coal.  Now we can simply turn up the thermostat and enjoy constant heat – the only discomfort being the occasional check to the propane

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