Category Archives: Raising Hay

Lazy, Crazy Summer

Spring has given way to sweltering summer. The rains gave rise to green pastures, full stock tanks, and murmuring creeks but now are only a remembrance. Mother Nature though has been good to Medicine Spirit Ranch.

A record harvest of both Klein and Coastal hay bales fills our barns and overflows to outside storage areas. I am filled at times like this with a sense of satisfaction which follows a season of worries about whether the rains would come, whether the fields would be dry enough to harvest, and whether the necessary equipment to carry out the harvest would materialize. Everything this time worked like a Swiss clock such that we produced more bales than ever before.

Hay is (mostly) in the Barn

Hay is (mostly) in the Barn

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I admit that my own efforts slack off during the heat of summer. Fortunately feeding the stock and maintaining fences doesn’t take too long. My ranch hand, Juan, has principally taken over the heavy lifting including the care of the lawn and ranch entrances.

 

Little Jack Takes A Trip

Yours truly ready to work on the ranch with assistants Jack and Bella.

Yours truly ready to work on the ranch with assistants Jack and Bella.

Some may recall the little brown dog we took in and named Little Jack. We named him after Jack Kerouac as both had spent time “On The Road.” Little Jack in short order stole my wife’s heart and continues to be her favorite among our three dogs. The brown splotchy coated Little Jack of questionable lineage has a sweet disposition (except around varmints) and cuddles much better than do our Border collies.

A question persists in our minds as to how Little Jack became lost, survived for at least a month on the road (spotted by friends), and eventually how found his way to our front yard where our two Border collies penned him securely in the corner of our yard. Nevertheless, an event occurred recently that may shed light or at least provide a theory for Jack’s period of wandering.

About a month ago my friend and former colleague, Ralph Menard, arrived with pick up and trailer to obtain hay for his cattle. I loaded his trailer using my tractor to load the 1000 pound large round bales.

Following the loading and saying goodbye, Ralph headed for his ranch on the other side of Fredericksburg. I then closed up the barn, loaded my Borders into the pickup, but despite calling and searching was unable to locate Little Jack. I momentary panicked, for it would not do for me to show up at the house without Trudy’s little dog.

I carefully inspected the barn to see if Little jack might have been accidentally been locked in. I found this was not the case. I then drove back to the house to see if, by chance, he might have taken off on his own for the home. I saw no sign of Little Jack. I proceeded to hail Jack and search the ranch for him, thinking he might have taken off chasing a deer or rabbit. Again no sign of Little Jack. My apprehension mushroomed. I could see Trudy relegating me to the couch for losing her dog.

it was only then that I recalled having heard an almost subliminal beeping coming from Ralph’s pickup- the sort of beeping that accompanies an inviting open door. The idea struck home. I immediately called Ralph on his cell phone and asked if, by any chance, he was hauling along with his hay a little brown dog. There was a short pause. I imagined Ralph twisting in his seat and inspecting the backseat. I then heard Ralph exclaim in his rich baritone, “WELL YOU LITTLE RASCAL!

Sure enough riding in his backseat, as contented as a fat man at an all-you-can-eat restaurant, was Little jack. My, that dog loves to travel. We’ve learned than when Jack sees an open vehicle door, he gets in- no questions asked. We’ve even had to remove him from UPS and FedEx trucks.

Ralph being the good friend he is, immediately reversed course. Our pickups met up on a country road where Jack appeared anxious to leave Ralph’s truck and load into mine. I may have imagined it but that dog seemed proud of himself for having stolen an unexpected trip.DSC_0888

So here’s the question. You think a similar occurrence might have happened prior to his coming to our ranch? Might Little Jack have jumped in a strange vehicle and later been turned out? Of course, we’ll never know for sure how the apparently well-cared-for dog suddenly found himself lost. We can only be grateful that he discovered our ranch and for all the joy he has brought us. Now if only Little Jack will learn to stay home!

Let me know your thoughts. All theories are welcomed.

Hay’s In The Barn

How affirming those words, “hay is in the barn”.¬† Have you ever wondered how hay is cut and baled? We cut our hay fields this week and baled both round and square bales. Below I share the process of carrying out this important ranch activity.

Two months ago our fields were brown and dusty. After our lengthy drought the fact that we obtained a cutting at all is fortunate. The process began two months ago.The rains this year came at the right time, namely just after we had fertilized the fields and then subsequent rain was well spaced till harvesting.

Trudy in Klein grass field

Trudy in waist high Klein grass field

Being a small operator, we don’t own the cutting, raking, and baling equipment. Instead I hire someone with equipment and pay a per bale charge. The charge for cutting and baling our hay is substantially less than buying it, especially so during our recent drought years.

Yours truly with baling equipment

Yours truly with baling equipment

When the hay has grown and begun to head out, the tractor pulls the cutter through the fields and lays it down, much like a giant scythe. The hay then needs to dry for several days. Because of the threat of rain this year, we baled the Klein grass into bales before it had completely dried. Once the hay was cut and dried, the tractor pulled a giant rake through the fields, creating a large snake-like furrow of hay. Next the tractor pulled the baling machine through the field and picked up the rows of grass,  turning it into thousand pound round bales or sixty pound square bales. The machine amazingly ties the bale tightly with twine or wire to hold it in place.

Hay rake

Hay rake

Trudy with Hay bale

Trudy with Hay bale

Given the higher than normal moisture content of the grass this year, we will leave the bales in the field for a week or so to dry before moving them to the hay barn. This interval diminishes the chance for spontaneous combustion. Yes, instances have occurred where barns have burned down due to prematurely enclosed hay bales.

Hay bales and Hay Barn

Hay bales and Hay Barn in distance

Next week we will move the bales (both the large round ones for cattle and the smaller coastal square bales for horses) to the barn to store for the winter. Placing  the hay in the barn is a particularly satisfying time, knowing the animals will have ample hay during the non-growing season.

Prospective consumers of hay

Prospective consumers of our hay