Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Cowgirl Lessons - winter semester

The other weekend Larry comes with a different truck for us to go feed the fall cows and heifers with.  He said it was time for another cowgirl lesson.  It was the truck with the bale picker uppers.  Needless to say, I was not really sure what all this lesson was going to contain.  I am confident in backing up to a bale.  That was the easy step.  Then the real lesson started.

  Just exactly how far to back up so that when the bale arms were extended they were able to grab the bale at the right spot and lift it up.  There is a controller inside the truck that opens and closes the arms, it also bends them in and out.  I have decided that up and down would be much easier to understand versus in and out.  So after a few tries I was backed up to the first bale and managed to get the distance just right.  Then came the extension and opening and closing of the bale arms.  That was an interesting part of the lesson, how to know just when to stop the up/down direction and then closing the arms to grab the bale.

I was amazed at how the truck itself pitched a little when the bale arms started to pick up the bale.  Those big round bales are heavy; I knew this, but never expected it to raise the front of the truck up a few inches under the weight of it.  Bale placed on the flat bed of the truck with arms still holding it and away we go to the first group of cows; the heifers.

Once again, I learned that having a pocket knife is a necessary tool for a cowgirl because inevitably there is twine that needs to be cut.  Lucky for me, being without all the necessary personal equipment did not lower my grade and Larry was happy to share his knife with me.  Although he did indicate that he should probably get me my own in the near future.  After a few times of cutting twine off the bales, I have decided that a pair of heavy scissors would be much easier for me to manage.  I have not shared this with Larry yet and further it could be easily kept in the glove box of the truck so when I feed hay by myself it is there and I don't have to remember to grab them from another location. 

As I sat in the pickup for the first part of the untwining lesson I was equally surprised at how much the cows can push on the bale.  Before we were ready to unroll it, there they were munching on the outer bits of the bale.  Pushing each other, bumping the bale with their heads or noses, and the truck would rock like an old rocking chair on the porch.  Another challenge here is getting the twine pulled off the bale.  You would think that it would easily slide but apparently if the bale has experienced any freezing that almost glues the twine to the bale and makes it nearly impossible to pull off.  Here is where another personal piece of equipment is necessary; a good pair of leather gloves.  Using the controller one must reverse and lift the bale off the flat bed and place it almost on the ground in order to pull the twine.  Once the twine is all removed, there is a hook type hand held tool that Larry uses to loosen the outer layer of hay to facilitate better unrolling of the bale.  I have yet to get to use this tool since Larry is always there helping me with the twine and he just does it.  Old habits of old farmers.

The last step is the unrolling of the big bale. That is fun to watch because the cows are really ready for their meal and seem to be willing to help by standing on the hay and holding it down as I drive forward.  Course some are so rambunctious in the unrolling portion that they jump, wiggle, and kick as the hay is laid out in front of them.  One cow especially was so excited that she was running, jumping and doing a little dance as she followed the truck.  On a side note, one must master the art of driving while running the hydraulic controller to lower the bale arms

So with 3 bales delivered on my lesson I have passed another level in my cowgirl training.  Now the challenge is to put what I learned into practice and someday be able to go through it solo without any help from Larry.  Since my lesson I have practiced portions of this but have not attempted it solo.  It will probably be next winter before I get that opportunity.  Until then, I am slowly honing my other cowgirl skills that I have already learned.