Archive | October, 2015

Bale Spear Reboot

30 Oct


Our bale spear has been with us for a few years now.  It’s been through two states and two tractors but the basic format has always been the same.
One absurdly large center spike and two little fellas on the bottom.


Back in Missouri this was never a problem.  The dominant form of hay bales in Missouri is the large round bale.  Stick the big spike in the middle of the circle and you’re good to go. But here in Minnesota, round bales play second fiddle to the large square bale.  Most of the diary farmers (the guys who put up really good hay) all use square balers.  Thus, if you want to buy really good hay, you’re going to be looking at big square bales.  This is where a giant center spike causes problems.  Moving large square bales with our bale spear is problematic.  Even with a very attentive operator there’s a decent possibility of breaking a bale and leaving 700-900# of loose hay lying around where you don’t want it. So after we got a bit more ‘lectricity in our shop, the bale spear was due for a reboot.


First order of business: Drill some big holes in a bunch of metal.

Why drill holes you ask?


Because, dear reader, this big 2.125″ x 5″ steel cylinder is the key to the whole bale spike thing. Sure, it’s a cylinder on the outside, but inside it’s a bit more conical. So conical in fact, that it mates perfectly with the conical end of the bale spikes themselves. Of course there’s a giant nut on the end that keeps the spike from falling out, but it’s the cylinder that does most of the work. So several thousand pounds of force all channels down to a mere 5″ cylinder. That sounds like something worthy of a little attention.


With all the holes drilled, we managed to get the cylinder nested in a chunk of 3″x3″ square tubing with a bit of 1/4″ plate on either side to give it a little more to hold on to.


Before all the real welding fun can commence, the fitup must be checked a few dozen times and all the pieces have to be tacked into place.


Then comes the welding. Lots of welding.
Many pounds of welding rod later and we’ve got something that looks like it should work.

Of course there are no photos of welding, because that stuff’s bright.  And I was a bit busy with the gloves, and welding helmet and all.  Apparently I only slowed down when it was time to hit it with a few coats of John Deere green.  And despite my best intentions, I did find myself singing about the star-crossed lovers Billy-Bob and Charlene.


With the bale spear all completed I haven’t done much more than quickly pickup a large square bale of barley straw yet, but it appears to work. More importantly, it hasn’t fallen apart yet. As my first major welding project, I’m going to call it a success.
And as with anything here on the farm, I couldn’t have done it without the interwebs. It is almost solely through watching hours and hours of Chucke2009 videos that I managed to become anything more than a dangerously incompetent welder.

So now with the revamped bale spear we can buy better hay with confidence.  Better hay means it ought to be easier to carry cattle over winter in better condition, which means better beef earlier in the spring.

More Power!

28 Oct


The garage needed a bit more power.  Luckily there were two empty spaces left in the breaker panel.


More power means bigger tools, like a welder that doesn’t require gas & oil.  Nothing against our welder/generator but it’s not exactly something you want to be using in an enclosed space.


So after  a bit of conduit and some hefty wire was run, we got this nice plug setup.  Two hundred twenty volts of electrical goodness.


And with all that out of the way it’s time to the new (very old) welder and see what kind of trouble we can get ourselves into.

Never Underestimate a Pig

23 Oct


The ferocious livestock guard dog puppies got a new dog feeder, one that holds a whole 50# bag of the large-breed puppy food.


That lasted a whole 3-4 days until the piglets found it. Then I raised up the feeder on some bricks to be a bit more exclusionary for said piglets.  “Surely” I said, “this has to be good enough to keep piglets out and let puppies in.”


No dice.

Then I changed up the fence to be a bit more exclusionary for said piglets. “Surely” I said, “there has to be a way to keep piglets out and let puppies in.”

Don’t underestimate pigs, especially when tempted with food that is more expensive than their regular fare.

O’Brien Treadaline posts

14 Oct


We’ve had a few O’Brien Treadaline posts since we moved to the farm back in 2012, they were left here by whomever last grazed the place.  I really grew to like the old blue posts even though I had no idea what make/manufacture they were.  Come to find out they were the same post that Jim Gerrish and Greg Judy (among others) swear by.  And just when we were about to need more posts to graze the rye/brassica mix, we happened to come into possession of a bunch of new O’Brien posts (thanks Jared!)


The only thing I don’t like about the Treadalines is that the metal spike is not sharpened from the factory.  That may not be a big deal to those farmers out there with less rocky soils, but we’ve got enough rocks to stop an un-pointed post in it’s tracks.


Bench grinders make this problem go away in a hurry

151012-IMG_20151012_125407Much pointy. Very nice. 151012-IMG_20151012_125356

And guess what is just about the perfect size to store all of these posts?

Yes of course it’s a 55 gallon barrel.  55 gallon barrels are the solution to everything.  Well, nearly everything.

151012-IMG_20151012_140651Upon setting the newly sharpened posts out in the rye/brassica field, I was notified that we were being watched.


Farmer watches dog, dog watches cows, cows watch farmer.

Big Wheels Keep On Turnin’

9 Oct


We’re not quite done with our first market season with the new (to us) display freezer and we’re completely in love with it.  We happened upon it last winter on Craigslist for $150; worth every penny.

If you, out there in internet land, sell meat at a farmers market and you don’t already have one, go get yourself a display freezer ASAP.

While we tried to outfit our freezer the best we could ahead of time, one weakness has already reared it’s head, the big wheels weren’t big enough.


The 5″ casters were plenty big for the (now defunct) egg refrigerator, but not quite up to the task of dealing with a full 7 cubic foot display freezer.


If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  But this time with mild steel, a welder and bigger wheels.


Fits just right.

And don’t worry, the old wheels are making themselves useful on the farmers market cart these days.  Waste not.

Fearsome Twosome

7 Oct


We’ve got a few new faces on the farm.

These two are Anna & Elsa, our new Great Pyrenees pups.


We’ve had a bit of trouble this summer with predators picking off our free-range hens.  When it was just a terrestrial predator we figured we’d invest in a bit of that fancy electro-net fencing next year to keep all the girls out of harm’s way. But then the problem became airborne.


First there were the bald eagles.

Then the juvenile red-tailed hawk.


A fence won’t do much to deter such airborne threats, so we figured that a change of plans was in order.

Livestock guardian dogs it is.  They’ll spend the vast majority of their time out with the chickens.  For now they’re getting the lay of the land by hanging out with the pullets (next year’s laying hens).