Posted by: 347bennetrd | March 10, 2011

Widening the Carriageway with the Digger

Lots of different activities always happen on the farm.  If I’m not trying to seriously injure myself by rolling the 4-wheeler down the hill, then all the cattle are being gathered up for TB testing.  If the nice cool misty morning, perfect for doing nodding thistles then turns into a pouring with rain afternoon, then there are always things to be fixed or welded up in the workshop.  Broken railings to be repaired in the sheep yards, or patches to be done to the deer fences.

Once when Dad had got the digger up to make some tracks over in Oven Hill, he thought he’d also get some drainage stuff done.  The track that goes down through Long Spur and over the culvert into Long Spur Flat needed to be widened.  So down the digger went, slowly making its clunking way.

Dad and I had already removed the deer netting from the posts and it was easy for the digger to pull the posts out.  He then went along building up the side of the track to widen it.

Dad was on the tractor and trailer to bring in extra fill;

And I was being the very important recorder of historical moments.  Once the track was sufficiently wide, the digger driver changed the fitting at the end of the digger arm and put on a vibrating post driver.  Here it is about to jiggle the post in;

It was cool.  Although I did miss the  bit where as the digger driver was clearing out the little creek he dug up a large eel that fell out onto the grass.  He jumped out with a towel to rescue it and return it to the creek.  I went hunting and found this once  treading water as he recovered.

Posted by: 347bennetrd | March 7, 2011

Shovelling Dags

As the title states, here I am using a shovel to spread out a huge pile of dags (dried up sheep poos shorn off their bums);

Well, to be completely truthful, I’m merely leaning on the shovel in order to pose for the photo.

Once you’ve crutched the ewes, you have to spread out the dags so that the poos can dry.  Wet dags are unbelievably heavy and the dag-man refuses to take them.  Once dry though, he is happy to come and collect them – later putting them in a crushing machine to make separating the wool much simpler.

As we share the woolshed and yards with my uncle, we had put our pile into a corner while they did their crutching.  Now I’m about to spread them all about.  Nothing on a farm is ever wasted!

Posted by: 347bennetrd | March 4, 2011

The Roller

Cultivation is a long process…  Once the stock have eaten all the previous year’s crop and you’ve gone around with the maxi-till to loosen the packed-in earth and turn over the last bits of uneaten veges, then you need to go around with the roller a few times to re-compact the earth.  A pre-emergence spray can be applied to blast any weeds that are wanting to take advantage of the wonderfully prepared ground and finally you sow your crop.  The final step is to do a last go at the roller to make sure the dirt is packed nice and tightly around the seeds.  The compacting of the dirt also keeps the moisture in the ground so the seed has the best opportunity to germinate

Well anyhoo, I hadn’t been doing any of the cultivation (other than accompanying Dad once or twice), so I was quite excited when I was allowed to pull the roller around.  Here I am in the tractor with the implement behind me;

Quite elementary you’d say and in theory I’d have to agree with you.  In practice however, not so much…!  While the idea is simply to drive round and around the paddock making sure you squash all of it, some parts were quite steep (well for me anyway, Dad thought they were little more than a very slight incline) and you have to try and drive above your previous round’s marks cos the heavy roller slides downhill.  Sometimes you have to activate the diff-lock while you are driving on the side so the tractor keeps on a straight line and doesn’t head downhill. Wow the diff-lock is kind of complicated – I just tried looking at it on Wikipedia.  Basically it makes both wheels turn at the same time, but you can go here if you want to know what really goes on…

But, after having done this for about 7 straight hours (including stopping for 5 minutes to eat my packed lunch), I was starting to feel more and more confident.  It really was the perfect way to start getting used to doing tractor work.  Here are the results of my day’s effort 🙂

Posted by: 347bennetrd | March 1, 2011

All Creatures Great and Small

This isn’t really a post topic, but one day this guy was in the yards and I couldn’t resist taking a photo of him;

Auntie Noeline used to have two alpacas, but one must have died and now this one runs with a mob of sheep.  He’s a classic: I think he has some identity issues, but he has a nice snuffly nose and hasn’t spat at me once.



Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 26, 2011

Fixing a Trailer

One of the trailers that gets pulled behind the 4-wheeler was a little the worse for wear so time for an afternoon in the workshop! There’s a hole in the decking that needs to be repaired, the drawbar latch thingy is broken, the stay in the centre of the trailer is bent and needs to be straightened, one tire has already been replaced and finally one of the latches that fastens the crate on needs to be replaced…

Here is the trailer on its side with the old decking to the left.  I have set out the new piece of plywood, traced the area I need to cut ready for me to start sawing.

I’m getting better at sawing, its surprisingly difficult!  Luckily I’m getting stronger so can go for longer without taking a break…

Once I had finished sawing that was kind of me done.  I undid a bolt and waited for Dad…  He removed the drawbar and started heating the centre support bar that goes between the two tires.  He used a gas torch which has bottled oxygen and acetylene.  Once the bar was hot, we used a fence strainer to pull the bar straight again.  Here is Dad using a gas torch for something else, but you can see what it looks like anyway.

And that was all for today.  We still have the rest to do…

Doh, it’s now about 6 months later and the trailer is completed and has been in use for ages!

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 23, 2011

New-Born Calf

This is totally out of sync, but I though it was interesting and wanted it to be immortalised on my blog (for future reference).  When the heifers were calving (in August!) I went up with Blake and Dad when they had to give a hand to a heifer that wasn’t managing on her own.  Here is the little critter straight after Blake had to help pull him out.  Blake is clearing the calf’s mouth of any obstruction.

We had run the heifer into the race and then shut her in the bail so she couldn’t move backwards or forwards.  Once the calf had been born, we milked the heifer and fed the calf that milk with a bottle and teat.

Here he is here, recovering from the experience.  He’s actually got blue eyes which is kind of crazy.

Mum and he went on to do very well.  However in the interests of realism I have to inform you that this is not always the case.

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 20, 2011

Lloyd Smith Dog Training Day

One day in November while going through the post, imagine my surprise when amongst the mitre 10 junkmail, an edition of NZ Farmers Weekly, and the local Molyneux Mail I found a sheet informing me that none other than Lloyd Smith was holding a dog training day.

Now for those of you that have been following my blob avidly will know that I began my preparation for a year on the farm by reading his guide entitled Pup Pen to Paddock.  And now I had the opportunity to go and hear him for myself and watch him in action!  Not only that, but the information sheet encouraged interested parties to bring along a dog!

So I put the crate on the back of the truck and Bronc and I went on a road trip…

From Millers Flat to Roxburgh Bronc was very excited – darting from one side to the other, perhaps in the hope of an improved view?  a rabbit? – but  by the time we were going past Shingle Creek  he was looking decidedly less happy.  We stopped for a toilet break (for him, not me) and then pushed on to Ranfurly.

Held on a local farmers place, the info sheet also encouraged wide-interest by promising muffins for morning tea and a bbq for lunch… Yum.

Lloyd began with huntaways (the ones that bark) and had brought along dogs at different ages and stages of development.  It was brilliant – he ran through steps to take with your dog from pup right through the training period, demonstrating each level with a different dog.

After lunch there was a guy from a  drench company who spoke to us about a brand new drench family and made a special offer on his drench ($500 for a 20litre container – eek!).  This at least explained to me how the day was paid for – given that attendees didn’t have to pay anything, and indeed got shouted morning tea, beers and lunch, I had been wondering how it worked!

After demonstrating and speaking about heading dogs, Lloyd then invited attendees to bring their dog along and he would have a look at them.  I was the first to volunteer and shot off to get Bronc.  While we were waiting he was not on his best behaviour – he narrowly avoided urinating on a woman’s leg, and then nearly did the same trick on Lloyd’s special ropes.

Lloyd started by asking me to demonstrate Bronc’s skills and the commands he knew.  This was a little embarrassing, but not wholly unexpected.  He ran barking after the sheep and didn’t listen to me.  Much like this dog here, who was after me)

So basically, the answer was that I have to start training Bronc again as if he was a pup.

We got home and with Blake’s help I fashioned a stick with a dog clip attached to the end of  it so I could start Bronc’s training regime.  Work in progress let’s say.

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 17, 2011

Silaging – or Big Machines for those that are interested

Making hay.  Sayings abound about this well-known farming activity.  I have some old memories of going down to bring Dad his vegemite and cheese toast sandwiches for lunch while he was making hay in the old MacIntoshes paddock.  I can just remember sitting in the grass next to the tractor with the old thermos and picnic basket, and hearing the sky-larks overhead.

Nowadays we don’t make hay, but silage instead.  And we’re not involved at all – its completely done by contractors.  Gone are the times when we’d have to be out on Christmas Day covering the silage stack!  It’s all about big machinery – check out this super-size-me grass rake;

First they go round and mow all the silage paddocks (that have been locked up for about 6 weeks for the grass to grow nice and high, and urea applied to the paddocks).  This is done about 12 hours before the next part of the process to let the grass wilt.  Then our mate the huge rake comes along to gather the smaller mown rows into larger ones.

The chopper drives over the rows and spits the finely chopped grass into the back of the truck driving along next to it.  The next truck in line is ready behind it, he’ll drive straight up once the first one is full without the chopper stopping;

The truck then goes and sits on the weighing scales (this is how we pay for the service – by amount of grass dealt with.  Depending on how the season has been, the grass can be more or less thick).

Then the truck dumps its load on the silage pit;

Meanwhile, the digger and another machine that I don’t know the name of are busy driving back and forth to pack the chopped grass in tightly.

Basically silage works by squashing all the air out of the pit and covering it tightly with a cover.  The grass then ferments and can be kept for a number of years.  As you open the cover in winter to feed out silage, air attacks the grass and can turn it mouldy.  And if you remember, the pit is also the site of my attempts at learning to load the silage wagon

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 13, 2011

The Millers Flat Flea Market

A highlight on the Millers Flat social calendar, the Flea Market (although now it has undergone a name change to the Millers Flat Art and Craft Market) is always held in early December.  At only $10 to hire a table, anyone can come along to display and sell their wares.  I hadn’t been for a number of years (and most of my memories date from the early 90s) so it was great to go again!

From the chocolate wheel, to kiddies photos with Santa, to jams, to Jude Omond’s famous sponge cakes, to plants, to ladies knickers for the more mature customer, there’s something for everyone 😉

This year I was helping out on the Millers Flat Hall Committee stall.  Mum had brought down a number of baked goods and preserves, along with some tomato and bean plants.  Jude Omond had her sponges (but if you miss out on buying one you could always try your hand at the chocolate wheel where they feature as a prize too).  Here we are nearly at the end of the day once the punters have bought everything;

Here you can see everything in full swing (such as it is).  Note the chocolate wheel on stage left and Santa waiting for customers stage right.  This is in the old hall part of the building.

In the newer lounge part you can find plant sales and Daphne’s Kitchen – see the happy clients partaking of their cakes and biscuits to the left;

I thought Daphne’s Kitchen needed a few close-ups – check out the selection of home-baked country fare, mmm mmm.

And as for the prices, well I think they speak for themselves;

So we’ll see you all down in Millers Flat this December to support the local community at the Art and Craft Market!

Posted by: 347bennetrd | February 10, 2011

Aerial Topdressing

Aerial topdressing, where a small plane flies around dropping superphosphate on steep country, was developed in New Zealand in the 1940s.  It’s a standard part of pasture management nowadays, replenishing the nutrients in the soil as they get depleted.

We have three airstrips on the farm where the plane can take off and land, and a superbin next to it where the superphosphate is stored.  Here is the plane waiting for the wind to calm down a bit before it can start spreading again.

The plane takes off down the grassy strip and swoops over the designated paddocks leaving a trail of about hailstone size bits of superphosphate.  You can also apply fertilizer with a ‘bulky’ or truck with a hopper at the back.

Here is the loader that fills both the airplane and the truck with the super stored in the superbins.

And here is the No. 1 superbin; you can wind back the corrugated iron roof in order to fill the bin and store the super.

Then the plane takes off and flies around and around spreading the fertilizer.  It doesn’t seem to take very long for him to finish one load – one day I was out doing nodder thistles and I swear it took him only 10 minutes – so they get very good at landing and taking off from small bumpy grass airstrips.

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