Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Zero Turn Mower

We have acquired a solid set of small equipment for this small farm. Most of it has been researched in tedious detail, Pros and Cons gone over.

Would we use them enough?
Would they do what we needed them to do?
Would they handle the work?
Could we use them for multiple tasks?
Would they justify the expense of the purchase?
How would they treat the soil or hay?
Would they help us keep fit?

It was a long list of questions. In the end we had the information to make purchases for the future.
Some things went wrong, like the wonderful Diesel engine on the Grillo G110. It was a Koehler. A solid engine with great power and fuel economy. We loved it but it was not designed for farm work. It was more suited to stationary applications. After a number of serious problems due to dust we had to admit it was not going to work. Now a gas Honda motor runs the Grillo and the work gets done.

One thing we had not taken into consideration was the rampant growth of things green in this country. We had a serious battle with grass and lost most of it. Ralph knew the Grillo and the flail and drum mowers cut the grass/hay/weeds really well but we simply could not keep up to it. Then he hurt his back.

One piece of equipment we had never looked into was a riding mower. We both felt that walking behind the Grillo was good for us. It is not hard to do. Walking is good low impact exercise. Then one day we stopped to see our Small engine guy Aron. He had customers and while we waited we looked at a Husqvarna Zero Turn mower parked outside his shop. It look almost new and was tagged for sale.  We looked at each other and I think we both had the same thought.....FAST MOWING!!!

So we asked about the mower. It was a trade in on a bigger mower. It was basically new and a good deal. It had a blower and bagger set up already in place. We went home and talked about it a lot. Looking at our fence lines and the areas that we had not yet cut we knew getting the zero turn had possibilities. Could it pull a cart or wagon we asked? Yes it had a hitch mounted on it. It would cut across a fairly steep slope as well. It was a major expense and we waffled, then Ralph tried the Grillo and flail mower. His back rebelled and we knew we would be wise to get the Zero-turn.

Then we looked hard and found a very good small wagon for it. It was mounted with a dump cart option, wide sturdy wheel and stake pockets for sides to be mounted. It was not cheap but after looking at a lot of other carts we felt it was by far the best quality. It came home from Tractor Supply. We built side panels for it and Ralph promptly hauled leaves with it. Watching him learn to drive the speedy machine was a blast, I am glad he started out in the big field.

 Cleaning Katies Stall.

Unloading Manure in the West Garden.

This winter we took the blower assembly off and used the zero-turn and cart to haul manure from at first the poultry and then the cows. It was a blessing, We hauled water in the cart, wood, scraps from the barn rebuild, pumpkins and t-posts from the removal of the old fences. The dump feature made it easy for Ralph to unload the manure where he wanted it on the Garden. We drove over piles of leaves and the blower sucked them up and bagged them for us to use as mulch.

 Picking up leaves, I didn't have to rake them!

 Filling the wagon from the bagger.

The best thing though was the speed of the fence mowing. Our shaggy fence lines were tidy and clear in no time at all. The bagger and cart haul grass clippings in for mulch and composting. This spring the new Paddocks were all trimmed to ready them for even growth.

[ Ralph did get stuck a couple of times, the Husqvarna does not handle slippery, heavy tilth going up hills, although back and forth is fine.We used the reliable but slow Grillo to pull the Zero-turn out. Ralph never gets it stuck where you can get a truck! ]

The Fenceline maintenance is even more critical now with the new woven wire fences.

Hauling the grass clippings from cutting the fencelines back to the compost area. The bags collect it then when they are full Ralph dumps them in the cart. This allows him to do almost all the way around the outer fence with only 1 extra trip back.

So now we have to assess this purchase. We think it was a good choice. Ralph has had headlights mounted on it. We found in winter darkness caught up with us and there were times the lights would have helped a lot so after looking into the idea we had some installed.

This small farm keeps us hopping and best of all learning. What we realize is you have got to keep an open mind about equipment. You have to make changes in the way you do things and look to options within the machines you buy.

The Zero Turn has been a real surprise. It is far more useful than we ever thought it would be. The Grillo is still the star for rough work and the gardening but this mower we never dreamed of getting is earning its place in the way we do things.

God Bless all of you and be safe.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

April Showers or Snow flurries?

It has been a different April. Our gardens are still too wet to get onto as much as we need to and the garlic needs some heat and good sunlight. However the pasture is doing well and we are using the new paddocks at the back for the cows during the day. They are doing very well and we have almost quit feeding them hay. [They still like a small flake to nibble on at night but they don't really need it.]

Katie has made the nutritional adjustment we had hoped she would, she has gained weight and looks terrific.

Here she is the day she arrived:

Katie January 26th, 2018
 Katie  April 2nd, 2018

I read  a lot about condition scoring Dairy cattle. I was used to beef cattle that have more cover naturally. A dairy cow can have more bone showing and still be in good condition. It was a learning experience. I read and watch a lot of Blogs and Vlogs that talk about grass fed dairy cows. We have decided to try to blend the two systems. Katies production effects her condition, if she is eating only grass to produce milk it is harder on her to keep condition so we supplement with a non GMO grain ration. It seems to be working as she has maintained her 4.5 gallons a day and has gained weight. Ben has grown tremendously as well. A testament to calf sharing.

The rotation through our pasture has also been a satisfactory experiment except for one unforeseen circumstance. The two back paddocks have not been grazed in years and were growing brambles and rough weeds. The bush hogging last fall and flail mowing this spring has allowed the grass to regain a good foothold. 

However the tick population is horrific. We are picking ticks off the cattle every night while we look into tick control. Our front pastures where the chickens are have not given the cattle any ticks. Since we use the milk we have to be cautious about chemical tick sprays for the animals. Well at least Katie. 
It is good to be using the paddocks though and the system of gates and the lane-way has proved to be very nice to use.

The other news on the bovine front is the arrival of two Jersey steer calves. One 2 days old and the other just 4 days old. We got them from the man Katie came from. He delivered the calves and had castrated them for us.He was so pleased to see how good Katie looked and couldn't get over how nice Ben is. He was quite funny, he kept repeating how beautiful she looked and how long and correct the steer calf was, a super calf....he had really turned out!
The two little steers will become beef in the next two years or so. Cheese making is not feasible at this time, we don't have the refrigeration space or time.

The price was right and it should allow us to have them well grown by winter and helping eat the grass to restore the paddocks.

Katie and the Boys. April 8th, 2018
Ralph has been working the gardens as he can. The poultry sure remember the sound of the Grillo. They arrived like a shot to help him with the tilling in the east garden. The Peas and Broad Windsor beans are up but he was working some of the manure and shavings mix into the remainder of the garden. We love the way it is adding organic to the heavy soil. The chickens and ducks just love the entire aspect of fresh turned soil.

They all congregate and observe or participate as they see fit. The turkeys strut and gobble. It has always been one of our favorite things about the free roaming flock.

So this is the latest news. Ralph has some new tools I will tell you about soon, after we have used them a bit more and he got headlights on the zero turn Mower. He is so thrilled to have them. Men and gadgets are such fun!

We  are enjoying ourselves so much and marvel at our little farm and how it is developing its "Character".

God Bless you and keep you safe and well.