Hay Making : Take One.

 On the Farm  Comments Off on Hay Making : Take One.
Sep 022014

One should make hay when the sun shines, so in a fencing lull, with our eye on the weekly forecast, we went about making plans to cut, ted, rake, and bale a few pastures. We figured we’d need around eight hundred bales to feed the cow-calf pairs through the winter and both Paul and Josée were getting pretty anxious seeing the neighbours hauling cart after cart of luscious golden hay, so the time was ripe.




We were hoping to harvest at least a hundred bales and needed at least four consecutive  days of sun and warmth to get the job done. The thermostat was to be in the 30s for a solid mid-week and the sun was set to shine. We embarked. Hay making means  long 16+ hour days, endless hours bumping along in a tractor, and being quite obsessed about listening to weather reports.





When Paul started talking about « entering hay season », the team* was pretty stoked to partake in this true farm experience.  Turns out it’s a lot of taking over someone else’s house chores (cooking, milking, etc.) and not that much excitement. Regardless, all of those who wanted tractor shifts got a kick at the can.

(* At this point, the farm team had grown to welcome Thulasy and Graham, good friends visiting from Alberta. For a glorious month we were five adults and two toddlers on the farm.)



Here’s the hay tedder. The teeth spin to aerate and spread the grasses out, or to « wuffle » the hay, to expose more of the cut to sunlight, air and wind and thus speed up the hay-making process.




And here’s the awesome warning sticker on the tedder. The words, if there were any, have rubbed off, but that twirly body says it all.




All kidding aside, farm fatalities due to entanglement in machinery are real and frequent. Between 1990 and 2008, 1,978 accidental agricultural deaths were recorded in Canada. 70% were caused by machinery. 48% were caused by rollovers, runovers and entanglements (see report here).


Despite five solid days of heat and sun, the humidity and stillness of the air did us in. On the sixth day it poured. It rained like it hadn’t in months. Paul managed to bale 30 solid bales of dry stuff, 50 of moist, and the rest is still (rotting) in the fields a week later. Quite deflating. In cities, you just don’t have that sort of experience. Prior to living on the farm (and as an urban worker and dweller), Josée’s closest experience is probably when a day or two of freezing rain in February ruins the ice on the Rideau Canal and the city closes the skateway for the season despite an upcoming cold snap. It had never been about livelihood for her. And these failed bales totally are.




Here’s Paul rolling in with the dry bales in the pouring rain.

We’re going to be giving it another go in September and undoubtedly buying hay for our first winter.

To make a floor.

 On the Farm  Comments Off on To make a floor.
Aug 242014


You know what’s a lot more fun than it sounds : pouring concrete floors.

Given the number of outbuildings and the amount of space we now have, we decided the thing to do was to buy a walk-in freezer. We’ll save on the cost of renting freezer space, spare ourselves the inconvenience of getting to and from the warehouse, and we’ll be able to pack beef boxes as we go, and for shorter periods of time (as opposed to Paul freezing his hands off packing boxes in the freezer for eight consecutive hours).




Here’s our freezer, all in pieces. We’ll put it together once our own chest freezer is full (of sweet blanched garden goods!) or as the abattoir season draws nearer. An electrical professional will do the rest.


We bought sand, rebar, and some insulating foam. We made the form with 2 x 6s, shovelled in sand, laid the foam, put out the rebar, and used a level and some sidewalk chalk to mark the wall.


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The guy backed in the truck, snapped the chute panels into place and let er rip. We all froze when it first started pouring out, I’d say, but the shovels got busy pretty fast. Wet cement was pushed into corners, along the wall, and shovelfuls were chucked to fill indents left by boots. Paul grabbed at the rebar, to try to centre it within the layer of cement.

Moving a long board back and forth, we started smoothing out the cement.


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We smoothed until we got to one of the beams and started shovelling anew.


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Plank and shovel. Plank and shovel.


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Turns out that « washing the kitchen floor » trick, whereby you don’t trap yourself into a corner with nowhere to go but wet shiny floor, also applies to laying cement floors. Mopping and cementing, who knew.




Quick word to the wise : due to the caustic nature of wet concrete, skin can be burned by the contact. To prevent these chemical burns, it’s really quite advisable to wear gloves. Since Josée’s hands are still raw and about as soft as 80 grit sandpaper over a week later, she’s decided that, when working with new tools or materials in the presence of professionals (in this case the cement truck operator), she’ll do a quick scan of their own safety gear before jumping in. He was, for the record, wearing work gloves.


Paul smoothed over the area using a bull float (a big swiffer like tool). We’re hoping that the barn will eventually be able to house a bit of an on-site store. This was a solid first step at occupying the barn, which is remarkably full of strangely shaped, unusable nooks.




As everyone else was washing up tools, Danny tried out the mechanical float we rented, and proceded to propel himself off the machine and into the fresh cement surface. No pictures, unfortunately.




Not only is there a sizable mound of leftover sand,




but we also had extra cement, so a sandbox is in the making, and we poured and smoothed a bit of a basketball court at the back of the barn.

We all forgot to sign our names into the floor, so the true barn residents went ahead and did it.