Thursday, 14 August 2008

The Joys of Living Here

Take 2, let's hope Blogger doesn't screw it up again!

Despite the trials and tribulations of living here – no customer service, intermittent water, double guessing the weather etc. being here more than compensates.

Turning the hay yesterday I was treated to an aerial flying display by a flock of swallows as they swooped across the field all around the tractor to feast on the insects I disturbed. Their aerobatics were amazing; I kept expecting a collision as the dived, turned and generally put on an incredible flying display.

Cutting the swathe and then turning it for the first time disturbed a whole new lot of insects. Most numerous were the grasshoppers; they were all sizes and colours, brown, green, stripy and ranging from about half a centimetre in length to a whopping 5 or 6 centimetre one that’s body was at least as thick as my index finger.

There were also the locusts; bright green and looking like white fairies as they flew away. There were a lot of those and I almost stopped looking at them but then one of them dropped back to earth right next to the tractor and I realised that not all of what I though were locust were actually locusts; they were praying mantises.

I’d seen one 15-cm/6-inch brown one at the end of last summer but nothing since then. G had spotted a small green one when distributing the fencing posts and I had spotted another one when ploughing, but the long grass down by the pond was full of them. All that I saw were green and ranged in size from a couple of centimetres to 6 or 7 centimeters.

Having turned the hay I took a walk around the pond, the moor hens ducked away under the brambles and I could hear the coypu humming in its den. The butterflies, blue, brown, white, yellow, red admirals and peacocks all enjoying the swathe of thistles I’d left, flitted around far to fast and too far away for me to capture on the camera. I did have a go at photographing one of the many yellow and brown spiders I’ve seen this year – a bit out of focus as my little camera doesn’t do close-ups at all well. I’d seen quite a few of these running off as I cut the grass and they get quite large, the abdomen being over a centimetre long and around 3 cm overall including the legs, but walking round I found them on their webs. The first thing I noticed was the white zigzag on the web, I’ve not yet had the time to find out what they are but my guess is that as well as using the web, they might drop onto insects using the zigzag silk as a sort of bungee.

The pond has also been a focal point for hundreds of dragonflies and damselflies. There have been the azure blue and red damselflies black, brown, green and yellow striped, red and dark blue dragonflies. This, again out of focus (I’m still working out how to justify a new camera just for blog pictures), is one of the red dragonflies, a common darter I think.

Final 2 pictures are the view from down by the pond. The first is the marsh area that leads onto the hayfield that curves out of site below the sunflower field in the distance.

This is looking the other way down my ‘hidden’ valley.

It’s really not hard to put up with some trials and tribulations when this is the reward.

Blogger has just screwed up

I'll try to sort out the posts later when it may have sorted its self out

Never Trust the Weather Forecast.

I checked and re-checked the long range forecast, it said 2 days good sunshine then the possibility of a little rain and then 5 days of dry warm weather again. I decided to cut the hay; despite the 30+ degrees on the Sunday it didn’t quite dry enough to bale so I left it expecting to bale Wednesday. The light rain on Monday turned out to be 7mm and ther were a further 5mm on Tuesday. By then the long-range forecast had also changed to rain every day for the rest of the week! Argh… I’ve only got the tractor until the end of the weekend.

I was able to turn the hay yesterday afternoon and there was still some very damp stuff in there although I think just one good drying day and we could bale, it would then just be a case of how fast can we get the hay off the field and into the barn so fingers crossed. Thankfully the alpacas don’t require high protein hay and they should also be on grass by winter but I would like a reserve of hay just in case the weather throws a wobbly this winter.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

It’s been lots of work here on the farm. The ploughing is slowly progressing. On the whole it looks good but there are large patches where the plough just skims the surface, which roughly corresponds to the damp/clay areas.

The weekend was forecast dry with Sunday being 30°C, ideal for haymaking now that the hay cutter had been repaired. So Saturday dawned and I waited for the dew to dry and went to set up the cutter. It wouldn’t lift the cutters plus the hydraulic connection was leaking. G came out to have a look and see if anything was moving at all when I operated the hydraulics. The ram had opened to the full extent but the chain was still loose – not right as the repaired chain had only had a link changed. While looking at the cutter G said, “what’s that for’? He was pointing at pulley, a pulley that really should have had a chain wrapped round it but didn’t.

We then proceeded to spend the next few hours taking the mechanism apart, and putting it back together correctly. It took a couple of goes, partially because we didn’t have the right tools and partly because it was trial and error until we got the adjustment right.

Eventually we were successful. I stood in awe of G’s strength when he heaved the cutters off the floor so we could get some working slack in the chain; something I would never have been able to do by myself.

It was now well into the afternoon so I didn’t finish cutting until after it was dark.

Sunday was warm and bright and I was able to set down the hay cutter without breaking the chain this time. I then filled the tractor with fuel and went to hitch on the tedder. It didn’t take too long to attach the side arms and adjust the lift arm and attach it so all that was left was the drive shaft to the PTO. Would it go on, would it h**k; I squeezed the release catch, I pushed the universal joint but it just wouldn’t lock on. Eventually I got G out – his treat for the week was a lie-in, but even he couldn’t’ get it on. Eventually I got the lump hammer and a piece of wood; G held the release catch and I applied the persuasion – it worked.

OK so I was running about an hour late but I thought there would still be time so I started on turning the grass. What I was expecting to take about an hour took nearly 4.

I remember the neighbour who cut the hay last year mention something about it being ‘mur’ (better). Turns out it was my lack of understanding his accent; he was talking about ‘mure’ (blackberries). There were long strands of blackberries running through the grass and these tendrils wound themselves tightly round the tedder until it was completely jammed. This of course happened when I was as far away from the house as I can be on the farm and no I didn’t have my knife.

This happened a couple more times although I stopped before the tedder was anywhere as completely jammed as the first time.

I didn’t have my camera during the first pass but took this picture when I went down to do the second pass. It shows a bit of the problem although this was nowhere near enough to jam the machine and only took a few minutes to pull clear.

I finally finished the first pass with the tedder around the time I was expecting to start the second pass after leaving the grass for an hour or so to dry.

I did get another pass in but the grass still has some wet leaves in it so baling wasn’t possible. I now have to hope that the forecast for tomorrow is wrong and that we don’t have rain but I think I will be drying the grass starting Wednesday and hopefully baling by Friday.

One hay field.