Well, another Ho-ho-ho and a Merry Christmas at the Alber/White residence! For those of you unfamiliar with the Holiday goings on that seem to accompany us on a relatively routine basis, we have previously enjoyed 6 days of a power outage over Christmas and this year was to be no exception to our brand of Christmas cheer. Good thing I closed the office for a fair amount of time over the holidays, although it never seems like enough. The weather has been unseasonably warm as has much of the eastern half of the country, and our cold weather dances have been seen by blind eyes, our prayers falling on deaf ears. So, the cows are living in a quagmire of mud. Yes, they have plenty of places to get out of the mud, I make sure I put bedding bales out to sleep on and enough of the high paddocks open that they can seek dry ground. But one baaaaad bull has apparently decided that our Ritchie waterers, which, incidentally, have absolutely no rough edges, just smooth and curved, are the primo spot to scratch his neck. Yes, there are other objects on which he could vent his pruritic urges, such as tree stumps purposely left high in the lane for just that purpose, the edge of the unused creep feeder that has had its paint removed and the underlying metal shined to a spit polish by God knows how many cow necks and butts, but he chooses to use the smooth, curved plastic of the waterer. Consequently the waterer was found removed from its moorings, attached to the concrete pad only by the electrical wires and flexible water line . Not a really good situation but fortunately neither electrical or water lines were torn.
Unfortunately, this is not the first waterer to meet this fate. Our new facility at the rental house had a brand new Ritchie waterer installed last year, and come spring, it too was found in a similar state of disrepair. I blamed the fact that there were two mature bulls in the paddock and that probably the larger of the two (and the submissive one) had been making what he thought was a dramatic escape from the other bull, and had engaged the waterer in his haste. However, when the waterer at the home farm met the same fate, with the only common denominator being the bull in question, who had just been caught putting his all into the edge of said waterer and the home waterer had remained undisturbed for over 15 years until the introduction of the presumed culprit, well, circumstantial evidence or not, Bad Bull has now been banned from all paddocks with a Ritchie waterer.
This still left us with the problem of repairing the waterer as we didn’t relish the idea of running water into a tank all winter long. That would entail figuring some way to keep the hose from freezing, should the weather ever actually turn towards winter. So I guess if you have to provide tanks of water in December, far better to have all this unseasonably warm crap. At least the hoses won’t freeze, at least during the day. So, we hooked up the hose (it’s short, but still a hose) and a float valve and a mid-sized tank and commenced to remove the waterer from its funeral pyre. We drained the tank, unhooked everything, lifted the tank over the water line and carted it into the shop where it could receive a little special treatment. We hauled our heavy pen panels out to the scene of the crime and erected a guard around the cement pipe in the ground, so no one could actually attempt to drink from it (impossible) or put a foot into the hole (very possible, and with the curiosity of the bovine species, very likely). The panels are heavy enough on dry ground, but moving them into place while trying to keep your balance on the muddy ground while it is literally sucking the boots right off your feet, was not an easy accomplishment.
So that done, we just had to clean up the waterer, the cement pad and hook it up again. I was pulling the bulls anyway the week of Christmas, so that would get Axis out of the area before we put the tank back on and gave anyone access to it. This would actually work out to be pretty convenient in the overall scheme of things I optimistically imagined. So, we rounded up Bad Bull, 4 more cow/calf pairs for weaning, and got ready to take bales out to the feeders.
Well, not enough had gone wrong and there was the rest of my time off so of course, the JD 6310 decided to start making a slightly concerning squeak while I was lifting bales. Tried to demonstrate it for Larry, but no, it wouldn’t make a sound, so with his permission, I continued pulling bales out to skin the plastic wrap from them. The squeak turned into a squeal and then a scream. Okay, shut the tractor off. Hydraulic fluid is running out of somewhere at a rapid and steady stream. Okey dokey, no more using this tractor until we figure out what’s wrong. More hydraulic fluid later and we at least get the tractor moved over to the shop where Larry can degrease it and see what is what. Bad leak, unusual fitting, 1 pm Thursday, Christmas Eve. Guess what: no JD dealer in the state appears to be open past noon and none are opening until Monday. The only good thing I can say about it is that the leak is in such a location that there is absolutely no way I could have been responsible for it. So there is a Hallelujah to this story. Anyway, looks like we will be feeding with the 2555, which, for those of you unfamiliar with JD nomenclature, is much smaller in HP, and at least in the case of our 2555, does not have front wheel assist or a cab. The mower is still on it from this fall, so it has a little extra weight in the back but I was having flashbacks to when I used to feed with it exclusively. The run at the feeder with the bale in position to be dropped as soon as it was anywhere near the right location, with failure at almost every attempt, the plowing of the mud and manure as I spun uselessly within inches of being able to get the bales into the feeder.
True to my memories, the bales are too heavy (about 1800 pounds) and the tractor could only reach one feeder, so the rest had to be set on the ground in the driest areas I could get to, without venturing onto the actual pasture, which would leave it torn to pieces and an equally muddy mess after about 5 minutes. The cows didn’t care; in fact I think they prefer the bales fed on the ground that way they end up with a good quarter of the bales as bedding. A small price to pay, I guess, for happy cows that have feed in front of them.
I will admit that Christmas dinner was a stupendous success, and my first ever Pecan Pie was stellar, made with Golden Syrup from the UK and a hint of bourbon, from Kentucky (where else?). Larry of course, declared it "too sweet" which is his standard complaint about Pecan Pie, even though he always seems to eat it right up.
So now it is the day after Christmas: the waterer is reinstalled, full of water, Bad Bull is confined to the swamp with the creek for water, the 2555 will at least wallow through the mud to get feed to the cows and everyone seems happy; I however will be overjoyed when I go back to the office on Monday: it will feel like vacation.