Monday, October 26, 2009

Busy Week!

Well, last week was a pretty busy week for me. It started off with us coming to an agreement with our neighbors (at the house) to buy 8.8 acres of land from them. They have 17.4 acres now and don’t think they need that much land, so we’re going to buy it to keep from having any other neighbors move in. Probably paying too much for it, but it is the tract that is closest to our house so this gives us a nice buffer zone now. Hopefully we will be able to close on it within the next month or so. That will put us up to 51 acres of land around the house.

I scraped my hand while cleaning my fish tank on Sunday, and didn’t think much about it since I’ve done the same thing dozens of times, but the next day it was starting to look infected. By Tuesday it was pretty bad and my entire hand was swollen and red. Wednesday morning it was even worse so I went to the Dr. He prescribed 2 different antibiotics and it really didn’t start to get much better until Friday evening. It’s almost back to normal now.

Watching the weather forecasts, there was a 50% chance of rain on Wednesday so I decided to go down and plant the 33 acres of wheat on Tuesday. My hand was too sore to do much with at work (I was barely able to type) but I felt like I would be able to drive the tractor with it. Last time I was down there planting I had put 600lbs of wheat in the grain drill thinking that it would stay dry instead of hauling it back and forth to the trailer like I did with the other 900lbs. I checked it and everything looked good so I started planting. After running about 5 acres I checked and on one side hardly any wheat had gone through the drill and on the other side it was about 1/2 gone. I was messing with some settings so I thought somehow it wasn't set right so I went around a few more times and the one side still wasn't planting much and so I dug down in the seed and discovered big patches of sprouted seed down in the bottom of the drill clogging several of the openings. Evidently some water had gotten into the drill and puddle up in the bottom and caused the problem. I cleaned it out and everything worked fairly well from there out.

After an hour, my tractor started to run poorly, and it seemed like a fuel delivery problem. I normally pull the grain drill in 6th gear without any issues, and it was bogging down badly in 6th gear and even struggling in 5th gear a little. I cleaned the radiator, and air filter, then messed with the fuel bleed valve and then cleaned my fuel filter and that seemed to solve the problem for a while. I didn’t really have much to clean the filter with though. I was just taking it out and blowing through it – you gotta love the taste of diesel fuel in the morning! The second time I cleaned it I dropped it in the dirt. Not a good thing. I ended up having to finish in 5th gear and even dropped into 4th a couple times. At less than $3 and a whopping 2 minute change out time, I probably should keep a spare fuel filter with the tractor.

I finally got done planting about 30 minutes after dark with 1,500lbs of wheat seed in the ground. I ended up running out of seed with about 1 acre to go in the middle of the field, but I am planning on planting that in something else this spring anyway. I’m actually starting to get the settings on the drill figured out. The seed bed was pretty ugly (I just had them disc in all the standing vegetation including tumbleweeds, old sorghum, etc.) but hopefully it will turn out alright. After missing the first rain in the forecast, it rained on it pretty good late Wednesday night, and it was a good thing I got it planted because it would have been too wet to plant it this weekend like I had planned on originally.

Okay, I’ve written a novel already and no pictures!

I still had other projects to get done on the land so I still went down there this weekend. Friday worked perfectly, with me getting down there and sitting in the new blind for a little over an hour and then shooting a 150lb boar pig. I stayed in the blind until after dark and saw several coyotes (they were 400+ yards away), and a few deer, but nothing that would have been a shooter even if it had been deer season (it opens November 7th). We still have a LOT of pig in the freezer, and my neighbors to the north of me were there at their hunting camp so I asked them if they wanted the pig and they said sure. That saved me from messing with it and I didn't want to waste it, so I gave it to them. It should be a good eater. Hunted again Saturday morning and not much going on. Shot at a coyote with my .22 Mag, and I think I hit it, but it ran off. Put up a new tripod stand on the edge of the fields that I planted a few weeks ago, most of the deer activity I’ve been seeing is on those fields so I think that will be a hot spot in a couple weeks still. While I was working on it a coyote came out into the field about 100 yards away and I was behind some cactus so it just saw some movement but couldn’t figure out what it was so it came over to investigate. It got about 25 yards away and I stood up and shot at it with my .22LR pistol, but I missed it. I put some camo netting on it to help it blend in and I think the end result was pretty good.
I need to remember if I put another one of these up to put most of the netting on it when it is still on the ground though, it took about the same amount of time to put the netting on it after it was in the air than it did to assemble the entire tripod on the ground! Of course the 25+ mph wind didn’t help much.

Here’s a picture of it from the other side of the small field. You can see the food plot is looking really good for only 3 weeks old. It is amazing what some rain can do!The next project was finishing my gate at the very front of the property. At one point in it’s life, one acre in the very northeast corner was sold separately from the rest of the property. It has a fence around it but no gate to keep people from driving into that corner of the property. When I first bought the place I had a trail camera stolen and had a few indications that people were trespassing and I’ve been meaning to put a gate in for a couple years now. Gates went on sale at Tractor Supply and I bought some and actually put the gate in a month or so ago, but then noticed some tire tracks just driving around the gate so I ended up putting a fence in. When it was all said and done I probably only put in 75 to 100 feet of fence, but it was still some pretty hard work. I only put in 3 strand barbwire since the goal is more to keep people out rather than keeping cattle. Hard to see the barbwire in the picture, but it actually didn’t turn out that bad.
Sunday was the last day of fall dove season so I went out to the pond at the house for an hour or so right before dark and ended up getting 5 birds. If I was a better shot I would probably limit out every time! Our dog “Baby” who is a full blooded Rottweiler goes with me and is actually getting to be a pretty good retriever. I ended up with 41 birds for the fall season. We have a winter season over the holidays for the first time this year so I still might get to 50 before the end of the year.

Overall it was a pretty busy week. I’m actually starting to think I might be actually getting older and should slow down a little bit!

That's it for now. Nathan

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Electric Cart Demo - Food Plot Checkup

Well, I made an unscheduled trip down to the land today to try out a lifted electric golf cart. I saw an ad on craigslist for them talking about a big federal tax credit on them (64% of the cost of the carts I'm looking at) and started checking on it and everything seems legitimate on it. To qualify for the tax credit, it has to be street legal so it has a horn, blinkers, lights, etc., etc. I have kind of toyed around with the idea of buying an old golf cart and doing a bunch of work on it and then using it down on the land, but this ends up cheaper than about any option I was looking at and you end up with a brand new street legal cart with a 4 year warranty. Top speed is only 25mph but that's plenty for what I'll be using it for.

I test drove one at the dealership and was pretty impressed, but I wasn't sure if it would make it up the big hill to my hunting blind down on the land. I test drove it at my house and tried to get it to climb out of the caliche pit, but that was a little beyond it's capabilities (I'm not sure our 4x4 pickup could have made it where I was trying the cart). I've been waffling on whether or not to buy it and the salesman told me that I could take the cart down to the land and find out for sure if it would make it up the hill or not, so I decided to take him up on the offer.

My company car and the little trailer got called into duty again to haul the cart down to the land. The cart isn't huge, but it is quite a bit bigger than a regular ATV.

Here's a closer view of the cart on the trailer. It fit pretty well, but the front rack was a tiny bit too tall to fit under the front deflector on the trailer so I couldn't pull it all the way forward on the trailer. I still ended up with enough tongue weight, but I may go ahead and remove that deflector since I've never really liked it anyway. It also makes it a little harder to strap the cart down since you can't just loop over the front axle and ratchet it down.

Here's what I brought it down there to find out whether it could handle. Hills never look as steep in pictures as they do in real life, but you can get a general idea. I always put the pickup in 4wd to go up this hill, I don't think it would make it otherwise. The cart is 2wd and although they do make a 4wd version, it is much more expensive and doesn't qualify for the federal tax credit. Anyway, the goal of this trip was to see if the 2wd cart would make it up the hill. My 2wd ATV can go up it so I was hoping the cart could make it up it as well. Long term, I'm thinking that Eli and I would be riding to the top of the hill and getting into the hunting blind in the early morning instead of walking in the dark with a 5 or 6 year old. Well, it made it! Didn't have much of a problem at all. It felt a little light in the front end at the top, but the front wheels never left the ground so that was good. If it was wet it might not make it up there, but that's pretty rare around here!Here's another shot of the cart at the top of the hill with the new hunting blind in the background.
Besides running around in the dark in stealth mode (the electric cart is VERY quiet compared with an ATV) the other use for the cart will be chores. The back seat folds down to haul things. I'll probably build some type of a wooden box to set on the platform for times when I will be working down on the land. I'm thinking that it will be hauling a chainsaw, lopers, rope, weedeater, etc. when I'm down there doing habitat improvements. For now it was hauling a new tripod stand that I'm going to be putting up.
So, the demo was pretty much a resounding success. The cart has a few creaks here and there that I think I can fix pretty easily, but overall I was very impressed. The demo version is in camo, but the solid color versions are $400 cheaper so I'm planning on getting a solid color one. I had pretty much decided on black, but the only negative is that they are selling so well that during the time I was debating on buying it, all of the carts that are coming in at the end of October are already sold so it looks like I won't be getting one until mid November at the earliest.

While I was down there I was able to check on the food plots that I planted a couple weeks ago and I was very happy with how well they were doing. Here's one of the shooting lanes that I planted with the fancy mix with some added winter peas and clover.
Here's a close up of the plot. It looks like the clover and alfalfa are getting a good start.
Not the best picture, but here's the shooting lane from the blind up on the hill. Before I cleared the shooting lane, animals could move through without ever being seen.
Here's the smaller field that I planted in the Turner Seed Fall Deer Mix. The greener spot is where I added some extra rye, oats and clover on top of the mix. On this field I had the drill set too low and had to go over it several times.
Here's the 13 acre field that is planted in pretty much just a Rye/Oats mix. I added a tiny bit of winter peas to it, but not enough to probably matter. The tripod stand that I'm putting in will be in a pinch point between these 2 fields.
Part of what I'm planning on doing this spring is planting switchgrass for the deer to use for bedding cover. I've been researching out different varieties and trying to find some that will grow with our limited rainfall, but still get 5 or 6 feet tall. It is crazy that Johnson grass is growing that tall in this field and I didn't even plant it. I'm curious if it will stay standing this winter or if it will get knocked down.
In my last post I noted the bumper crop of berries on the chittamwood trees and it looks like the pigs are enjoying them for sure. I noticed that they are falling to the ground now and based on this it looks like the are pretty much eating them exclusively right now.
Always good to end a post with a picture of a big 'ol pile of pig poop, but that's about it for now. I still need to get back down there and plant the 33 acres of wheat and I may spend the weekend and try to thin the pig population down as well.

That's it for now. Nathan

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Planting Part 1 - Seed Mixes

Well, I tried to come up with a catchy title, but couldn't come up with anything.

I had originally planned on getting my food plots planted before I left on my elk hunting trip, but I wasn't able to get to it, so that was on the agenda for this weekend. I had a total of 49 acres to plant so I had plenty of work ahead of me. I was doing several different styles of planting and mixes, but when it was all said and done I had 2,650lbs of seed to plant!

My utility trailer that I haul my tractor on is rated at 7,000lbs and there is no way I could haul all that seed plus my tractor and stay even close to the weight limit so I ended up getting the seed and hauling it down there on Friday afternoon. Here's my company car pulling our little trailer with 2,650lbs of seed on it. Saturday morning I loaded up the tractor and headed down to get the seed in the ground. I've added a weight distributing hitch and that helped a bit, but I think I'm still sagging a little too much in the back. The tractor and loader weighs around 4,500lbs and the mower on the back weighs almost 1,000lbs so with the weight of the trailer it ends up pretty close to the 7,000lb capacity.
Here's a little less than 1/2 of the seed. 450lbs of Rye and 450lbs of Oats and 200lbs of Turner Seed's Fall Deer Mix. Not in the picture but I also put in 50lbs of a clover/alfalfa mix that I got from Browning Seed in Plainview.
Here's what Turner Seed's Fall Deer mix looks like out of the bag. It includes Wheat 14%, Oats 14%, Rye 14%, Barley 12% and winter peas 14%, plus a little tiny bit of hairy vetch 5%, purple top turnips 5%, alfalfa 5%, madrid clover 5%, hubam clover 5%, arrowleaf clover 2.5% and essex rape 2.5%.
When I was at Browning Seed picking up the rest of my seed, I talked with them about what I was doing and they suggested adding some alfalfa and clover mix to the rye and oats that I was planting. They were very helpful and mixed me up a 50lb batch with 25lbs of Alfalfa and 3 different types of clover. I forgot to write down what the different types of clover were, but I remember 1 was arrowleaf and I think one of the others was white dutch. Here's what their mix looked like. The alfalfa and clover is VERY small seed.
In an attempt to make a food plot on the shooting lanes that would be impossible to resist, I added about 1olbs of winter peas that I had left over from a couple years ago and 10lbs of the clover mix from Browning Seed to 50lbs of Turner Seed's Fall deer mix. I put this down on about a 1/2 acre so I'm hoping it turns out irresistible! Here's the clover mix and winter peas added to the Turner Seed Fall Deer mix.
And here it is after mixing it all together. You can see there are more peas and if you look really close you can see more of the clover and alfalfa.
The alfalfa and clover is so tiny that I was worried about using it in my spin spreader/seeder so I decided to mix it in with 50lbs of rye and 50lbs of oats to try to have a little more control over spreading it out. I broadcast it out over the best looking places on the 2 fields I was going to plant.
Here's the tractor with the broadcast spreader hooked up and ready to go. I only used it for the shooting lanes and to spread the alfalfa/clover mix with the rye and oats. Talking with the guys at Browning seed, I broadcast the alfalfa/clover mix first then went over it with the grain drill when I was planting the straight rye/oat mix.
After I broadcast the seed on the shooting lanes I ran the disc over them very lightly. Maybe a couple inches at the most. This cleaned up the last little bit of stuff that was growing on them and lightly buried the seed. The forecast showed 80% chance of rain so I was counting on it to pack the seed in so I didn't go over it with anything to pack it down.
On a small 2 1/2 acre field, I planted 150lbs of the Turner Seed fall deer mix with the grain drill. I keep messing with the settings, but I had it set way too low. I ended up going around the field 3 times before I got it all put down. It made for a nice clean looking field though!
After finishing that, I pulled the plates off the other side of the drill so that it was as wide open as you can possibly get it. I loaded it up with 500lbs of Rye and Oats (plus about 20lbs of winter peas) and mixed it up and got after it. I only paid $250 for this grain drill a couple years ago and it is about a 1950 model, but it really has done well for me. I've spent about $50 for some parts and done some very minor repairs to it, but overall I have been very pleased with it. Here it is loaded up with seed and ready to go.
I was planting a 13 acre field per the FSA but by the time you actually look at the field on paper vs. in real life I think it is really only about 12 acres because of one area that has grown back over with grass and one area that has an erosion problem. The drill is 14' wide and you can cover some ground fairly quickly. I pull it in 6th gear and using the GPS it shows about 5mph when running at normal speed. I disced this field almost 2 months ago and then sprayed it with roundup 3 weeks ago. Overall I thought it was pretty clear of weeds and grass, but there were a few spots that either I missed with the roundup or it came back before I got back down there to get it planted. Here's a view from the drivers seat when I was running the drill. Pretty easy to tell where I'd been and what still needed planted.
With the drill opened all the way up, I got it all planted on the first pass. I ended up putting down 800lbs of the rye/oats mix for about 66lbs per acre. A little heavier than I wanted to, but better too much than too little and having to go back over it again and again. I do need to figure the settings out a little better before planting the big field though.

Speaking of the big field (33 acres), it is still waiting to be be disced and planted. I was trying to line someone up to disc it for me since it would take me 3 or 4 days with my tractor, but I couldn't get anyone lined up in time so I could get it planted this weekend. I was also pushing the rain and actually just got done with the 13 acre field before it started to rain. I loaded 600lbs of wheat into the grain drill where it should stay dry and then put the other 900lbs of wheat in the pickup and hauled it to the trailer just as it started to rain. I got plenty of excersise before it was all said and done. I unloaded 2,650lbs of seed off the trailer, then put 1,750lbs of it into the broadcast spreader and grain drill, then loaded 900lbs of seed back onto the pickup and then unloaded it into the trailer. I still get the fun chore of loading that 900lbs of seed back into the pickup and then into the grain drill sometime in the near future.

It rained enough that it would have been sloppy trying to get the big field disced and planted, but not enough to do much good for anything else. Right now the forecast has a chance of rain every day the rest of the week, so hopefully it will get it watered in good.

Overall I was pretty happy with getting what I did planted before the rain. The remaining field has to get planted by December 1st for the CRP program that I enrolled it, but I'm really not planning on hunting that field so if I don't get it planted for a couple weeks that should be okay

A couple other pictures of stuff that I thought were neat. I thought this spider web looked pretty cool with the rain/mist on it. These are Chittamwood (Bumelia lanuginosa) berries. I have a lot of these trees on the property and this is the first time they have had many berries on them. Not sure how it will affect wildlife usage though.
Last picture of this post. I saw these growing in some brush. I think it was some type of gourd on a vine that just happened to grow up in the brush. The fruit is about the size of a cherry tomato. Anyone know what it is?
Lots of information if you actually care about any of this stuff. Hopefully all the effort will be worth it in another month or so!

Well, that's it for this post. Nathan