Dawn breaks over our fields of brand new hay.
Our fields are in the process of being transitioned from hay to soybeans. Earlier this fall, our farmer killed off all of the hay, and at the end of last week, the manure men showed up.
I had an inkling that something might be in the works when on Baxter’s and my morning run on Friday–which takes place entirely before sunrise–a very, very large manure-smelling piece of equipment loomed out of the dark as we entered the big field. Baxter and I were both a bit disconcerted, as it’s usually just the two of us alone. Once I ascertained that it wasn’t a) coyotes b) a UFO c) poachers, we were able to get on with our run, although Baxter continued to give it the stink eye (pun not intended, but I feel clever now, so I’m leaving it in) as we did our morning perimeter patrol.
Saturday morning, the rumble of machinery signaled that work was underway. Being the weirdo country newbie that I am, I rushed outside with the camera to document the process. I’m not sure that the manure contractors have ever been models before, but they were pretty tolerant of my presence and even took time to answer my questions.
Despite their explanations, I still know very little about manure spreading, so I’ll do my best to explain what I saw.
To start, this is a massive operation. The manure men were independent contractors hired by the farmer who rents our fields. They had traveled 3 hours by tractor that morning to come to our farm. Here’s just some of the equipment that was involved in manurefying our fields.
Outside of the frame of this picture is a second tractor, a pick-up truck and another tanker. Each tanker holds 8,000-10,000 gallons of manure. Our front field, which is roughly 6 1/2 acres, took 7-8 truckloads of manure. Holy crap (okay, that pun was intentional).
The trucks were in a regular rotation, going to the veal farm down the road from our place to get filled with manure and then coming back to the farm to deposit their load.
The manure flows from the trucks, I’m assuming through some kind of pump, and then travels in long hoses across the fields to the tractor.
The big hose connects into smaller hoses on the tractor, which are each attached to a disc. It’s a bit hard to see here, but the rear window on the tractor cab has its own windshield wiper… a necessity for when one of the hoses has a “blow-out.” Ewwwww.
Here is the spraying attachment folded up (for scale, the tractor’s tire is as tall as me).
The discs cut into the ground so that the manure goes right into the dirt, although some of it does pool on top.
When the field is done, the hose rolls up onto a spool on the front of the tractor.
Here’s an action shot of the spraying.
And here’s what our fields look like now. (For contrast here’s a picture from the same angle taken at the start of summer after this year’s first hay harvest.)
As for what our fields smell like now, well, I have to admit things are a bit stinky around here. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be (perhaps I’m building a bit of an immunity to “country air”). At the same time, I feel like I’m constantly smelling manure. Even when I’m in the house with the windows closed, the smell is still in my nose.
I’ll leave that part of the experience to your imagination.
Does anyone have any wisdom to share about manure spraying? How weird was it that I felt the need to document the whole process? Is anyone else dealing with a malodorous environment? Any idea how long it will take for the smell to fade?
Hello everyone. Hope you enjoyed last week’s guest posts as Matt and I enjoyed a little vacation. We’re back to our regular routine, but apparently there’s one most guest post yet to go. It turns out that Baxter has something to share with you all (or, as he says, y’all), so I’m turning the blog over to him today.
Now, I know I’m new to Canada, but I do have some experience with farms (remember Kentucky and the chickens?), and there’s been something bugging me ever since I came to live with Julia and Matt.
There’s no other way to say it. Our fields were a sorry site.
Sure a couple of them had seen the mower this year, but three of them hadn’t. And two of them were at the very front of the property for everybody to see. The grass was so tall it had started to fall over. And after a rain, well golly, then we had these huge matted down areas in the fields.
Our farm was looking downright derelict.
The grass was so high that we would walk to the edge of the field, but we couldn’t go through it.
And never mind sniffing. Do you know how hard it is to sniff over grass, rather than follow a trail right along the root?
It wasn’t fit for man, woman or dog.
But, finally someone decided to do something about it, and I have to tell y’all it is marvelous.
Not only does the farm look better, but it smells better too. Whole new worlds have opened up.
I’ve walked on ground that I never walked on before. I’ve sniffed smells I never smelled before. I’ve watered grasses I never watered before.
So far, I’ve attended to the perimeter and inspected the hay on two new fields.
I saw some signs of the other doggies that I hear at night–the yippy howly ones named Coyote. As much as I’m curious to meet these doggies, they have to know that this is Baxterland, so I sprinkled some of their markings.
Sometimes, I’m near overcome by the twitching in my nose, and I have to just sit down and sniff. Don’t worry though, I always get up and finish my patrol.
After all, this is my farm now. It’s my job to look after it.
The first day of summer meant the first harvest of the year on the farm.
The field behind the driveshed had been mowed earlier in the week, and by the time I came home on Friday, the hay was dry and had been mounded into long rows ready for baling.
As soon as I got out of the car, I could hear the clanking of machinery in the big field. Matt and I walked out to see what the commotion was.
Two big tractors were baling the hay. Unlike last year’s first cut when we had big round bales, this year we had massive rectangle bales. Allow Matt–all six feet of him–to illustrate the scale.
As best I could tell, each of these huge hay blocks is made up of about 21 smaller size rectangle bales. For those not familiar with hay, it’s not any one plant. Each hay bale is made up of a variety of grasses, clover, flowers and other plants. Last weekend, when I walked out to the back field, I snapped some shots of the most frequently occurring grasses.
I’m not knowledgeable enough about haying to tell you what any of these grasses are. According to the farmer who manages our fields, we have a good crop of hay for this first cut thanks to a good amount of rain this spring and some doses of fertilizer earlier in the season.
Just like people have to mow the grass on their lawn weekly, the hay will grow back, and we should be able to have a second cut–or maybe even a third–in one year. Something I learned last year that surprised me was that the second cut is usually better–as in more nutritious–than the first.
So this scene may repeat yet this year.
As you can likely appreciate, it’s pretty dark at the farm once the sun goes down. There’s no glow of city lights. The closest street light is about a kilometre away. The stars and the moon are our only light.
So imagine Matt and me arriving home very late one night last week. It’s a moonless night, so it’s pitch black outside. We can see the glow of the cats’ eyes in the headlights… and some very bright lights circling the back field. We’re a wee bit startled.
It turned out that it wasn’t aliens who had flown over the fence and it wasn’t hooligans who had somehow broken in past our newly installed gate. It was our farmer finishing our second hay harvest of the year.
For those wondering how he got past the gate, our fields are gated separately and can be accessed from the road.
Owning a farm but not actually farming the land ourselves creates an interesting dynamic. It’s our land, but we don’t manage it ourselves, so sometimes we’re surprised by what happens when we’re not there.
We weren’t sure whether we were going to have a second cut this year because the summer was so dry and the hay was looking very scraggly to my untrained eye. However, apparently there was enough for a harvest because when I came home from work one evening last week I found all of the fields had been mowed.
A couple of days later all of the hay was baled, and by nightfall it was loaded up and trucked away.
So no alien sightings on the farm. At least not yet. We are however keeping our eyes open for crop circles in our freshly mowed fields.
Playing catch in the backyard is one of the joys of summer.
Batting practice in the hayfield is one of the joys of summer at the farm.
With a mowed field and no neighbour’s windows nearby, the farm takes baseball practice to a whole new level.
Of course, with only two people and a big field, the pitcher/basewoman/outfielder gets a workout.
Our baseball team plays tonight. We’ll see if all of our practice pays off.
What’s your favourite summer sport?
I’m definitely not a farmer, even though I live on a farm. However, I think I have an instinct for this country thing.
A week ago I was showing you photos of hay growing in the field and saying that I thought harvest was imminent. It turns out, I was right!
Last Friday night I came home from work to see that all of the fields had been mowed.
Saturday work began to get the hay out of the fields and into a more useable form.
First step is drying the hay.
After this, the hay was strewn all over the field. Good for drying. Not so good for baling.
I thought we might be done for the day, but nope. (Maybe my instincts aren’t so good). A little while later, the baler showed up.
Once the elves are done their work, they wrap the bale in a web of green mesh, and then the magic door opens and the baler spits out the bale.
By Sunday morning, we had five fields full of big round hay bales. (We actually have six fields total, but one–the far front field–is in rehab, so nothing’s growing there this year).
The saying goes “make hay while the sun shines.” For the farmer who rents our fields, I think he follows the motto “make hay while the sun shines, as the sun sets, and by tractor light.”
Perhaps our farmer’s instincts are better than mine though. When I would have quit and come back tomorrow for baling, he finished it all in one night. And early Sunday morning when the rain started, the hay was tucked nice and tight in its bales, protected from the precipitation.
One thing I do know about farming is it’s incredibly hard work. I’m happy to enjoy the sights of the harvest from the side of the field.
Matt and I walked out the other night across the fields checking the hay. We have six fields on the property: the corner field, the front field, the back field, the far front field, the field behind the driveshed and the big field. Really original names, eh?
These shots are from the big field. To my untrained eye, it’s also our best field. The soil seems to be good quality, the terrain itself is nicely graded, the hay grows with minimal weeds.
This field represents about 12 of our 129 acres. It’s a bit of an unreal experience to walk across this much land and know that we own it. Or to stand in the middle of the hay and see how productive our land can be.
We don’t farm the property ourselves. We’ve rented the fields to a local farmer who is responsible for caring for them, tending the crops and harvesting the hay.
From the height of the grass, I’m thinking the first harvest will likely be soon. The sight of hay bales in our fields will be another fun first for us.