Monday, November 27, 2006

Cold Cows

The cows don't venture far from their feeding area anymore. With the cold temps, they pretty much huddle around waiting for the next feeding. I am giving them quite a bit more hay than usual and they seem to be keeping good weight on. The insulation they carry is amazing. They always have a thick layer of frost and snow on their backs, a strong indication of just how efficient they are at staying warm.


It is definitely winter around here. The weather is unusually cold for this time of year. While November almost always acts like winter, the temperatures are usually just under freezing for a daytime high. Right now though, and for the past week, the daily high temps. have been below minus 20! There have already been a few nights with close to minus 30 temps. At these temperatures, the equipment is impossible to start without being plugged in and the animals need extra feed. On top of these cold nights, the snow has been falling relentlessly. We have more than a foot out in our pastures now. Still though, the animals cope well. There is no shivering or apparent distress. They eat more and sleep more and that is about it. When the pigs come out of their barn for supper, they soon develop frosty beards of ice from the steaming porridge. This is Bubbles, he is growing fast into a big ole pig. He still has the funny personality that he always did, although his growing size makes him more and more docile.
The piglets are doing fine too. They are still living in the hut that they were farrowed in. Mom is gone from the pen now, so they greet me every day with excited squeals knowing that I am the food animal. Inside their hut is an infrared heater that hangs from the ceiling. They make themselves a nest of straw near the light and happily sleep. The only way you know that they are there is when you see the straw heave up and down with their breathing. The girl's name is Pumpkin Pie and the little boar is nameless. We will keep him for awhile to see how he turns out and then he will be sold as a breeding boar.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Duals on an Allis?

I am thinking of adding dual wheels to my Allis Chalmers WD45. It looks pretty cool, but actually serves a purpose too! In our area, we have some hills along with some sandy loam soil. This makes traction a problem at times when working hard at something like plowing or chisel plowing. By simply adding two more rear wheels, you can add to the weight of the rear end and add more gripping power to the ground. The fact that it looks so cool is just a benefit! This is a picture that a fellow Allis man sent me. Leon's Allis CA looks like it is ready for business. In my mind, having grown up around International Tractors like the 1086, all tractors should have duals!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Allis in the snow...

I am almost finished with the Allis for this year. I have the loader back working and the shifter has been fixed. Although, I noticed that I still cannot get it into 4th gear! This will have to be remedied before spring work starts. For now, the loader will be a great help around the farm. Moving snow and loading and unloading acquired equipment from the trailer is something that had to be man-handled until now. I still need to re-work our truck mounted snow plow to be able to attach it to the front end loader. We used the plow on our Ford Expedition, but Cindy traded that in on a Honda a couple years ago. Good timing with the current price of gas! Anyways, we always held on to the plow just in case. A set of mounting brackets for my Ford diesel is more than $200. I can easily save most of that money by fabricating a way to mount it on the loader and use it with the tractor.

Loading Facility

I am almost finished with our new loading facility. This series of pens and a chute will make the process of loading livestock for transport much easier than it has ever been. Instead of chasing animals and trying to force them into a trailer where they quite clearly do not want to be, we can simply guide them into the "V" shaped corrals that leads to two sorting pens. The second pen has another "V" guide that takes the animal to the chute. I still have to install the various gates, but I used the system this weekend to load our Highlands/Galloway cross cow "Henny". She is off now to visit her boyfriend for awhile. The pens are just the right size for our farm. Any bigger, and I feel that I would need help to get the animals sorted and loaded. Henny is quite wild and I had her loaded in about a minute and a half! Excellent! I am a little proud of the design and the ease of use although it is nothing new and plans on-line showed me how to design the catch pens and gave me dimensions for the chute. The next thing to do besides installing hardware and gates is to design and build a slide-in chute within the chute that will make the chute usable for our smaller animals like the pigs and sheep. With a chute that is cattle-sized, the sheep and pigs will easily be able to spin around and make life difficult for us.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Another View of the All-Crop/Roto-Baler

Just thought I would publish more photos of both pieces.

From this view, you can see how complete the baler is. The belts are far less than perfect and will need replacement. Belts on the combine seem fine, but who knows when it actually starts working. Bearings will need TLC. The back of the combine shows how perfect this machine is. There is next to zero rust. Paint is still ok too. Will need canvass (which seem to be rolled up inside!). It is also missing the cutting bar and teeth. That shouldn't be too bad to replace. Otherwise, I have my fingers crossed that there is very little to do.

Border Collies of the North...

We have always owned Collies, but at one point we had the best Labrador in the world. He passed away several years ago and I still miss him greatly. He was a tremendous duck dog. My wife acquired a couple sled dog harnesses from somewhere and she always used the dogs to mush to the mailbox about a mile away. She always got weird looks with her full-size dogsled and team of Border Collie and Lab! The Border Collie was always smart and she quickly figured out that if she just kept the rope tight, she could appear to be pulling but it was always obvious that Brant was maintaining all forward momentum! He would sure pull. Now our old collie is 13 and her only duty is to try not to get herself killed around the equipment. She is deaf as a post and I now have to be very aware of where she is when I am moving equipment or vehicles around the yard. Our new Collie "Tag" is almost 2 now and Cindy decided to try him out in the harness yesterday. It was amazing how quickly he learned to pull. Obviously, he can't pull any amount of weight, but it is still fun for Mrs. Schneider to go to the mail.

A Sheep Auction

As I drove to St. Paul on Friday with my load of chickens, I noticed a sign at the auction mart that stated there was a sheep auction that day. Instead of waiting around inside the truck for 5 hours for the birds to be processed, I decided to attend the auction. Cindy and I have been spending a good amount of time researching sheep and are planning on acquiring a few sometime soon. The lamb meat market is good now, and with a booth at a farmers market next year, we should be able to do well with our pork, chicken, beef and lamb sales. There was not a strong turnout of sheep at the sale. The roads were not good and I think that turned off a lot of people from attending. I missed out on bidding on a couple nice ewes, but thats ok. We will keep looking and find what we want in time. The thing we like about sheep is that they are a little more gentle on the fences and safer for the kids. It should be noted that the prices at the auction were fairly steady. Ewes of any age were going at $1.20 - $1.40 per pound and Rams, nice or otherwise were around $.60 a pound. There were a couple of buyers that bought most of the stock. I assume that they were feedlot operators. Most of the groups were in numbers that were too large for me to consider. It would of been nice to be able to pick out a few nice ewes instead of buying an entire "flock".

The Last Chicken Day!

Thankfully, this is the last shipment of pastured chickens to the processing plant. As usual, the night before, I loaded up the trailer in the field with the old Ford 2N tractor. As you can see, we have a good amount of snow now. This was the latest we have ever kept our chickens in the field. We had them on Fall Rye and had to feed alfalfa hay the last week or so as the birds couldn't scratch through the snow enough to feed properly. The birds had put on a good layer of fat, but not too much and with all the fresh greens they had to eat, they turned out beautiful. We had a chicken dinner on Sunday night and man was that a treat. There is such a difference between store bought chicken and pastured that you would never believe me. You simply have to try it for yourself.

Old Tractor...

This is the Minneapolis Moline U tractor that is in the same farmyard as the Roto-Baler. I think that the fenders are not original, but the rest seems great.

More Allis Finds!

Here is a fairly good condition Roto Baler that we found. It is sitting in an abandoned farmyard and the owner has passed away. The nephew has indicated that we can have everything in the yard as long as we take it all. There are discs, plows, seeders and numerous other pieces of equipment in varying states of decay. The roto-baler looks pretty good though. It appears to be complete and while it needs new belts and bearings etc., it shouldn't be that hard to restore to working condition. There is also an old Minneapolis U tractor that is very complete and would probably start with some fresh gas, plugs and a battery. It will be a long hard project to get the yard cleaned and hauled, but it will be worth it.

A Good Allis Weekend

On Saturday, my friend Vince and I spent a good part of the day driving the countryside looking at various pieces of equipment that he had scouted. He knew I was looking for an All-Crop combine along with a Roto-Baler and some other stuff. It ended up being a good day! We stopped by a neighbors' place who had this old All-Crop sitting in the hedgerow. We talked with him briefly and the farmer was happy to see it go somewhere with the intention of being used again. I got it for free. I didn't stop long enough to look at the serial number or anything, but I think that it is an All-Crop 72 and it doesn't look all that old. We stopped at a couple other All-Crops and they were absolutely decrepit in comparison. It is a straight cut type of combine and that is quite rare up here in Canada as our growing season is short enough to make swathing a necessity in most cases. Nowadays with improved crop genetics there are more and more straight cut varieties of grains, but back when this combine was new, there would have been many years where the crops simply wouldn't get combined. Perhaps this combine was used to harvest clover or alfalfa seed? I don't think that I will risk trying to take this combine home right now. The roads are covered in salt and Vince indicated that it might do damage to the machine down the road. We will wait until the roads are dry or spring...whatever comes first. An addendum...I have heard from several Allis Chalmers experts that this is indeed NOT a 72 model. It seems that the 72 has an auger at the head as opposed to canvass. It is either a 60 or 66. I will get the serial number and find out more details.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Still working the Allis...

Still busy around the farm. We have had a bunch of snow over the past weekend. Last night was Haloween and I spent the evening re-building the shifter on my Allis Chalmers tractor. I have been spending a lot of time on this piece of machinery. I am trying to get it up and running in time for winter chores like snow removal and unloading big round hay bales. The website Unofficial Allis is a tremendous website with a great forum full of people that are extremely knowledgable and helpful. I have spent a good deal of time there asking opinions on how to fix up my old tractor. I am getting fairly close now. The hydraulic system has been re-plumbed and with new hoses and rams for the front end loader, that system is working very well. All I have left to do there is weld the control arm back on to the control valve. That will be a little tricky as it is in a tight spot and I cannot let the shaft get too hot and melt any o-rings inside the pump. A little spurt or two with the 110 volt mig should suffice to hold the arm without getting too hot. Once I get the transmission shift tower back together and re-installed I will be able to perform a good tune-up on the tractor and I might be finished! It was running rough and I noticed liquid coming from one of the exhaust ports...suspecting something wrong, I pulled the spark plug and it had been collapsed on itself somehow. There was definitely no spark there! I have new plugs now and will re-build the distributer later. These two pictures show the shifter before and after. The before picture is at the bottom actually. As you can see, it was quite worn. I built it back up with the welder and a belt sander to get it back to shape.