Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fertilizing the Pasture and a Sad Turtle Story

Other than clowns, mimes, tapioca and spiders that lay eggs in your ears at night I am not afraid of much but man lightning scares the heck out of me. We have had some doozey lightening storms the last few days and there is so much conflicting information out there. I mean, can you get hit through a window? Sitting on the John or showering?, can it zap you through your cell phone? hmmmm? This is a case where Google is not your friend because there are thousands of hits and they all cointradict themselves...and Bandit and the cats dont like it either. The other night during one storm Willow the indoor cat was already under the covers, Boo Boo was under the bed and I woke up hearing a sad little wimper. Bandit wont get on the bed unless invited and he was shaking and wimpering and looking towards us for safety and salvation so of course he was invited up and got under a blanket and had to spoon for the rest of the night. Now I am pretty sure the chickens and cows dont like lightening either but the bed isnt big enough and I am drawing the line.

In the last post we showed the soil sample and mentioned our plans to fertilize and overseed the main pasture and we therefore put in our order with the local feed store but who knew that nitrates were going to be in short supply? I dont know if that shortage is widespread or just local but we were put on the list and today (after getting home from helping with the artificial insemination of 34 heifers at the ranch we help out on) we got the call that we should come and jockey for fertilizer as its first come first served. We ended up spreading 1600 pounds of fertilizer and 300 pounds of fescue seed which came out to about what I predicted in the last post. If you just have a yard and use a scotts spreader and gripe about paying $34 a bag for a couple bags of fertilizer for your yard each year I no longer habe any sympathy!

We had never done this before but it was pretty straight forward and we are tracking the results as far as yield and timing. Just like lightning "facts" just about everyone and every internet site has an opinion on when to fertilize, how much, what mix ect. so basically we took a middle of the road path and will develop our own "facts" though we did basically go with local knowledge because we can visually see those results.

As for the turtle, it was a large and very old snapper head that got hit by a car and injured. These animals are somewhat dangerous to small livestock, pets, and kids but they are magnificent animals  and for the most part they leave you alone. In the past we have relocated them to the back but this one was so injured an eye was hanging out, it was limping badly and bleeding profusely from a severely damaged mouth that I had to shoot it and put it out of its misery. I know it needed to be done, it was the humane thing to do...but I feel bad that I had to do it.

So how it works is you go into the feed store (in our case our local Missouri Farmers Association) and order the poundage and mix you want and they will let you use a spreader like you see here (they were calling it a "Buggy"). Word of advice, do your research because this time of year all the old timers will be down there and you dont want to look even more of a rube than necessary. In our case I knew exactly what we wanted and dint blow the impression I wasnt a rube until we went to hook up the "Buggy" and I forgot to take off the hitch ball so the feed store manager (who happens to be great and never complains) and I had to spend a few minutes doing something (removing the hitch ball from the receiver tongue) I should have pre planned for. But in the end we hooked up and I pulled the buggy under the hopper just right and we got our fertilizer and fescue seed mix loaded. We got a quick intro on how to operate this beast and away we time we will look like old timers. If you look close in this picture you can see seed and fertilizer being thrown ou of the spreaders.
This thing can throw fertilizer, lime or seed up to 40 feet on either side so I established a grid pattern and used the tracks in the pasture to keep track. You dont want to get too close to the property line fence or you will be fertilizing your neighbor and even though we like them...its not Christmas.

All told we were hauling close to 3000 pounds and the buggy is just held on with a hitch pin through the hole where the hitch ball used to could be a bit rough. Our 3/4 tonne was in 4WD so we wouldnt tear up the pasture and it did fine but I definitely wouldnt try this with a 2WD 1/2 tonne.

So for my dad who loves all things mechanical, it has a gas engine on the front that drives a small PTO shaft that in turn turns the throwing wheels that catch the seed from the hopper and trow it to either side and in back (you can see them below). They are basically two round disks like the round disk at the bottom of your Scotts home spreader...just bigger. As long as the engine is running the disks are turning but unless your moving forward no seed or fertilizer will come out because there is a chain and sprocket you engage with the read buggy wheel that moves the conveyor belt that moves the seed/fertilizer to the spreader disks (it the silver belt in the middle of this pic). You can also get these without the gas engine but with a gearbox and PTO shaft to run off your tractor...this was just easier.

The round disk with the lever in the middle left (looks like a sucker) adjusts the flow rate and you engage the drive sprocket that moves the conveyor when you move forward via a lever right behind the left rear tire.

I probably made it sound a lot more complicated than it actually is and we had no problems at all working this thing and getting our pricey fetilizer and seed spread effectively.

And this is the poor Snapper Head turtle, his carapace was the size of a dinner plate and he had been crushed by what we presume was a car tire on the right front. He was obviously old and leathery and we estimate he was about my age (early 50s) so it was with great sadness that he was put down.

And finally, there are lots of desperate and lonely people out there and you never know when a small gesture of kindness can make a big difference. This has been brought home to us recently and we are reminded that it doesnt take much to throw in a little more stock to extend the stew or to lend an understanding ear. Peace.

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