Working Outside of My Comfort Zone


| 8/15/2011 8:41:03 AM


Tags: off-grid, gardening, hay bales, Cam Mather,

Living off the grid for 13 years, I’ve spent a lot of my time outside of my comfort zone. From working with concrete on solar trackers or wind turbine anchor holes, to choosing and installing batteries or putting up a wind turbine, I have nothing in my background that prepared me for many of the tasks that I’ve accomplished. I just had to learn it all by the seat of my pants.

Whenever I am in the midst of a task that I don’t feel overly confident about, I find myself wondering, “How did I get here?” Most recently I had that feeling while I was towing a trailer behind my truck. Now I’m used to towing a trailer, since every couple of weeks I get a load of horse manure from my neighbor. It’s not the most elegant trailer in the world, but it gets the job done. During the snowy winter months I seem to spend as much time getting the truck unstuck from the snow as I do unloading the manure.

Last week I borrowed my neighbor Ken’s big red trailer to haul some rotten round bales of hay. There are lots of beef farmers in my area and they often end up with hay bales that got too wet or bales that got moldy and they are willing to sell them to me pretty cheaply. The bales aren’t pretty, but I’m only using them as a soil supplement, so it doesn’t matter. Actually my main use for them is to expand my gardens. Once I identify where I want to expand my garden the following year, I unroll a thick layer of hay, which kills anything growing there. I love this because it leaves all the nutrients and topsoil intact, unlike plowing where you turn the top 6 or more inches of soil over. Oh, and since I don’t own a tractor or a plow, it’s not an option anyway.

I got my latest bunch of round bales from a farmer south of here near a village called Enterprise. To get there I had to drive down some real back roads, starting with one called “The Carroll Road”. The roads are scenic and beautiful and gravel and narrow. They actually get much wider in the winter when the plow pushes the snow and everything else well back. But right now, with grass and weeds aggressively encroaching on the road, it is pretty much a one-lane road. I drive slowly so this isn’t a problem, but the challenge comes with the trailer, especially once it’s loaded with round bales. I put two bales across the bottom of the trailer so I can stack one on top, so the bales end up sticking out a bit past the already wide rear bumpers.

Driving down the road is a constant game of looking as far down the road as possible, so that if I do spot another car I can try and find a flat spot to get as far off to the side as I can. I love country roads like this because I rarely encounter another vehicle, but when I do, it can be pretty stressful. The only consolation is that these roads are constantly used by tractors pulling large trailers with round bales, so most drivers around here are accustomed to dealing with slow-moving farm vehicles.

wide load
 

steve dejernett_1
8/16/2011 8:14:01 AM

Hey Cam, We use the hay down here in Texas in the same way. Started about 20 years ago cleaning out barnes that had a layer of square bales that had been on the ground level and had rotted about half through. Teh big problems were keeping them together long enough to haul them and the fact that skunks quite often had dens built in the barn, although the skunk smell kept a lot of unwelcome wisitors out of my garden. On some of the new garden areas, I also use cardboard to help kill the johnson grass that I am blessed with.





mother earth news fair

MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR

Oct. 21-22, 2017
Topeka, KS.

More than 150 workshops, great deals from more than 200 exhibitors, off-stage demos, inspirational keynotes, and great food!

LEARN MORE