Monthly Archives: August 2011

Lifting, transporting two hay bales at a time

Topsy Farms was able to make about 1750 large round hay bales this year, each weighing between 800 to 1000 lbs. Each one is plopped in the field where the baler rolled it out, so they are scattered over about 40 fields, varying from 3 to almost 70 acres.

All the bales have to come home.

Ian takes two wagons, hitched in tandem behind the tractor, to the field he’s about to clear.

His tractor, the Allis-Chalmers 185 cab loader, now with decent tires on the rear wheels, has two spikes in the front and tines in the rear, enabling him to pick up two hay bales at a time. First he reverses, lowering the tines, to pick up a hay bale in the back. Then he shifts to forward gear, raising the rear hydraulics. It is difficult (until one has done thousands) to line up the top spike centrally, at reasonable speed, aiming for the mid-point on the bale that can not be seen from the driver’s seat. The second smaller spike keeps the bale from spinning as the hydraulic arms lift the bale. The tractor then takes the two hay bales to the wagons, parked centrally in the field to minimize travel distance.

Gathering 2 bales

In position

Wagons almost loaded


The picture below shows that all fields are not conveniently flat.  The low swale Ian is travelling through, would bog him down in wet weather, so this field is high on the list for early clearance.


Loading the hay wagons, one bale at a time

Ian is able to transport 29 round bales of hay at a time from the fields to where they are to be stored. He puts 28 on the wagons, two abreast and two high, and one on the rear tractor tines.

Gathering 2 bales

He locates the wagons in a field on high ground (as we’ve had a fair amount of rain lately, and it takes a lot of traction to pull that weight). As described in the previous set of pictures, he approaches the wagons with two bales of hay. He drops the rear one, lifts the front one, then places it carefully and accurately in position. It only looks easy. He then reverses, shifts forward, picks up the hay bale from the rear tines, and adjusts that in place too. He then goes back out in the field, seeking two more.

preparing to load a bale

Use your imagination – we have about 1750 bales scattered over a good part of 2/3rds of the Island; Ian can haul 29 at a time; if he’s fortunate he’ll manage two loads a day. Once or twice a season, he manages three. If he’s less fortunate, and becomes stuck, he has to unload until there is sufficient traction to pull the wagons through the low area. The men are working on repairing another wagon in hopes that we can get a tractor freed and the labour to get someone else hauling.

The sheep will be fed. The lambs will thrive. Our fresh-frozen lamb will be eagerly sought after 35 years experience. Our quality wool products will continue to be available on-line and at the Wool Shed.  All thanks to the hay.

Life on a farm.

In positionWagons almost loaded




Herding the Weaned Lambs

The lambs have been weaned from the ewes. They no longer need the milk and they can be rough on the mamas.

The ewes need a break.

They need to have some peaceful grazing, to rebuild their strength before starting the cycle again.

This way we ensure we can maintain a healthy happy flock, producing quality lamb and wool products, both on-line at at our Wool Shed store.

Lambs being driven from the Grey Barn to west of the New Barn to get them as far from their mothers as we can so as few as possible drift back.


Changing Tractor Tires

Large rear tractor tires are really expensive, especially when it involves hiring a truck to come to the Island to repair or replace. Over $2000 just isn’t in the budget for items that aren’t crucial.

We decided to switch the tires on two tractors.

The “Straight Pipe”, had reasonably good tires but it is not often used in the autumn; the “Cab Loader” we really need for hauling bales but its tires were nearly bald. They weigh roughly 1000 lbs each, so it isn’t lightly done.
Christopher reasoned that the grippers we use to move baleage bales would do the trick, working like big hands.
First, one tire was removed from each machine. In the picture below, Ian is bracing, Chris is removing nuts with a rotating wrench, while Jacob stabilizes the bolts with a wrench.

Ian giving Chris hand signals since he can’t see from the tractor seat, as the grippers line up and close firmly.

The grippers are comfortably able to handle the weight, crossing to the waiting tractor.

Chris has his eyes glued on Ian, as he has to line up as close as possible with the 8 studs, both vertically and horizontally, working, in effect, blind.

Ian’s signal tells Chris to lower just a fraction more. It worked. The final adjustments were made by rolling the tire a touch while adjusting the jack.
We’re mobile again.

Setting up a paige wire fence

Our friend and Island neighbour invested in a set of solar power panels, then had urgent need for a paige wire fence.  The panels were erected in the midst of a field used for cattle grazing. Cows are curious creatures who like to rub, and who seek shade.

It was vital to get a protective fence erected fast.

Kyle took on the job, and his dad Ian agreed to help.

Kyle had previously cut and trimmed the main cedar poles for the posts, and for the braced corner posts. Digging the holes to sink these a minimum 3 feet deep took time. They used a chain saw to notch the corner posts for the fence to brace them securely, then tightened them with a wire, and ‘twitch’ – the smaller piece of wood used to twist the wire. [Good scrabble word]. They unrolled the fencing on the ground, then put an iron pry bar vertically woven through the end of the wire. This was attached to the tractor, then gradually tightened to gain sufficient tension. Metal U-shaped fence staples were then hammered into each post, over each wire, to hold that in place. The fencing was cut a few feet too long intentionally, and each individual wire trimmed, then wound around the corner posts.

The photo above shows Ian’s hand, using a handy tool – a piece of metal with a hole in it – that is perfect for winding the taut wire end around itself.

Our grandsons were with us for the evening, and did a great job, absorbing the action and entertaining themselves.

Herding the Sheep Flock

About 1300 ewes and lambs, starting out on the road.

Sheep keep eating pasture; shepherds must keep it available for them. For us, it has been a great growing season. (We know a sheep farmer east of here who hasn’t had measurable rain in over two months who has to start selling some of the flock.)

We own land, and we lease a great deal more land, much of which we’ve fenced; all of which we’ve improved. We want a field to be thoroughly grazed, so not just the favorite grasses and legumes are taken, leaving less favorite plants to reseed, but we don’t want them hungry.

We have to move our flock regularly.

Not all the leased fields are adjacent. Thus, sheep drives, as the fields are often only accessible via the roads.

We used to use an army of kids and adults on bicycles and on foot, asking our neighbours to keep dogs in and to stand at their laneway or flowerbeds to help us protect their space, reinforcing the temporary fencing we erect then tear down. Often we’re the best entertainment in town, and folks will pile out in their jammies, holding coffee and cell phones to take videos of the action. Now we are able to afford ATVs, (which handle ditches and fields rather better than did bicycles) but still we need the people.

Our goal is to maintain a flock of healthy happy sheep, living outdoors year round. This produces great lamb and also quality wool which we sell on-line and at the Wool Shed.

We avoid the heat of the day to lessen stress on the sheep. We time our planned departure according to the ferry schedule, not wanting to delay a neighbour’s rush to the boat. We send the ATVs around the back of the field, to try to gently move the flock towards the exit gate, hopefully keeping ewes and lambs together. (The lamb’s instinct is to circle back to where they last saw mama, and they are difficult to herd, alone.)

One drive recently, of about 1300, got half the flock out on the road, 2 ATVs went ahead, and the other two shepherds couldn’t get the rest of the group out of the trees. After several futile attempts, we closed the gate, took the first group a km up the road, then went back for the second bunch. The neighbours and visiting artists from the Lodge loved it; sheep and farmers were glad that move was done.

Some mavericks found an escape route, but are returning to the road

After weaning we moved the entire flock of lambs across about 5 fields to the safety of the Predator Resistant Fence. They don’t herd, they whirlpool. It took an hour and a half and much patience, but the job got done. Everyone is eating, safe and content.

All safely in the new field, watched by our crew of volunteer helpers.

“Two Topsy Farms sheepskins that covered the front seat were missing.”

Two Topsy Farms sheepskins that covered the front seat were missing.

Lightly Coloured Sheepskin

“[In Boston, my] Audi A4 was missing along with everything in it including passport, computer and Blackberry. .. the Boston Police discovered the vehicle abandoned… the obvious additional thing missing was the two Topsy Farms sheepskins that covered the front seat.
Apparently the thieves thought the sheepskins were more valuable than the car!”
– Gardner McBride, Summer, 2011
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