Saturday, September 24, 2011

We're On a Roll

September may turn out to be the most expensive month yet for us.  I actually went into September saying that we should be alright financially since there is nothing we have to spend money on beyond the usual bills -- no car registrations, no surprise bills, and I didn't want anything for my birthday.  Boy, was I wrong.  When it rains, it pours.

First, our window blinds have been broken for a while and I've been waiting for a big sale on them before ordering new ones.  Of course, the big sale came in September.  Then the horses started breaking one to two fence panels a day.  The wood is rotten, so they are just snapping the panels in half, and every day my husband has to come home from work and replace the broken wood panels with metal poles.  I tried to do the job myself, but found that I was too weak to hammer a nail in.

Then our new microwave that we bought when we remodeled out kitchen a couple of years ago died, and I'm afraid to contact the insurance company, because then the mortgage company will get wind that my mother passed away, and we won't qualify for a loan in our names, and we can lose our home if we can't pay off my mother's loan with cash.  So, we're just living without that microwave for a while.  We have a smaller, cheaper Wal-Mart model that has lasted us years sitting on our counter top.

Then our PlayStation3 broke.  It stopped reading discs.  Sigh.  I was so into trying to win Borderlands.

Then we ran out of hay.  I frantically started calling around to every hay farmer in the valley whose phone number I had.  I left messages with most of them.  I talked with one really nice guy who was all out, but said if I called in the spring, he would put me on a list to get some of his first cutting in June or July.  He only charges $10 a bale and claims to never raise his price.  His bales are also heavier and larger than most of the bales that people sell around here.  They are certified weed-free, which means they are good quality, so I'll definitely have to work my way onto his list.

I got a hold of one farmer who said I could come over in 20 minutes.  I agreed.  Then my usual farmer called and said he'd bring me a delivery in 20 minutes.  Oops.  That's my life story.  Everything always has to happen in the same minute.  I told him we were on our way out, but would be home at 1:00 PM.  He agreed to come then.  He warned me that he had to raise his prices a lot because "everyone else in the valley raised theirs."

We drove the truck over to pick up the hay from the other guy and no one was around.  There was this very narrow dirt road that drove past a lot of barns and houses, and we had no idea where we are supposed to stop.  I asked another driver I was passing where I was supposed to go to pick up hay.  It turned out we passed it.  He didn't know which hay pile we should take from, so he gave me his father-in-law's phone number.  We drove back to the hay and called him.  He said he'd be right out.

A pick up truck came racing toward us, and there was a young man and woman in it.  They said, "May we help you?"

I realized the man was not the person I spoke to on the phone, so I explained that I had just called Fred and he was on his way out to show us which hay we could pick up.  The couple put down their defenses and apologized for the confrontation.  They said they'd been having problems with people trespassing on their property and doing odd things like making out in their cars as if their ranch were Lover's Lane.  They certainly had my sympathy with that.

Fred arrived on an ATV and gave us a choice of two piles, told us they were $12.50 a bale, and told us to come to his house when we're done.  There were so many houses around that I had to ask which was his.  He gave a vague description of how to get there, and drove off.  It was clear that he did not want to help us load our truck.  My husband forgot his gloves and long sleeves.

One pile was green, but way too wet.  I could smell they were starting to mold.  The other stack was brown on the outside, but drier, so I chose it.  The bales turned out to be super heavy and large.  The two of us struggled to get them loaded in the back of my truck.  Of course, we drove to the wrong house to pay.  We were greeted by a pack of barking, biting dogs and couldn't get out of our truck, so a lady stuck her head out the window and told us which house to go to.  She said to honk really loud and Fred will come out of the house.  I guess that's the only way you can pay without getting attacked by their pack of dogs.  We could only load up 9 bales, because we had gone over the weight limit for the truck.

Once home, we unloaded the nine bales, and then my usual hay farmer showed up driving a harrow to deliver a block of hay, which is 84 bales.  He asked me if I wanted him to save me another block over winter.  I said, "That depends on how high your prices are."

He said, "No, that depends on how much I'm willing to set aside for you."

It was then that I knew the guy was playing games with me and thought he had the upper hand.  He said, "I'm the only farmer in the valley with certified weed-free hay."

I said, "No, you're not.  I just spoke to two other farmers who have certified weed-free hay on the phone today."

"What are they charging?" he asked. 

"$10 and $12.50 a bale," I said.

"Go look at it," he said.  "I guarantee you it won't be as good a quality as mine."

I said, "I just bought some and not only is it good quality, but it is bigger and the bales weigh about 40 pounds more than yours."

He said he raised his price from $12.50 a bale to $13.50 a bale plus tax ($80) plus $50 delivery.  Right then my husband stepped in and told him we can't afford his hay anymore, because he has had a pay cut and I'm still out of work.  We didn't even go into the fact that my mother died and we are paying off her debts too.  Ultimately, if we can't afford the hay, then we should find new homes for our horses, but our goal at this point is to put pressure on the hay farmers to control their greed.

Then I found out that this hay farmer is one of those who betrayed the locals by shipping his hay off to Japan for inflated prices.  I was really angry about that.  We've been loyal customers of his for 12 years, and now he's giving our hay to the Japanese and letting our horses starve.

My husband was trying to get him to come down on his price but he wouldn't.  Then he wanted to buy a second block and pay for it now if we could get a discount.  The hay farmer wouldn't give us a discount, but he agreed to hold a block for us.  He said he couldn't promise to hold it at the current price he's charging, which is already too high for us.  This is the second time he's pulled a fast one on us.  Another time I found out that he was charging me $13 a bale and giving my neighbor the price of $10.50 a bale for the same stuff, just because they've been friends for 40 years.  And he thought we wouldn't get together and talk?

Of course, as soon as he delivered the block of hay, the sky opened up and started pouring rain.  My husband doesn't want to climb up a slippery ladder, so we had to wait for the rainstorm to end before we can cover the hay, but obviously we don't want to do that because then we will just be trapping the moisture in and causing mold.  I'm planning on going back to the guy we bought the big bales from next weekend to get another load from him.  I just don't trust this other guy to hold a block for us.  If he does, I'll make good on my word and buy it, but these are desperate times, so I just have to stock up with whatever I can find.

This rain wasn't even predicted.  Had it been, I would have never ordered hay today.  I can't believe my lousy luck.  In just 10 minutes of rain, our yard is already flooding.  The whole time we were out there standing in the rain arguing with the hay farmer, our nosy neighbors were standing at the fence watching, of course.  I'm sure they need some hay too.  It's about that time of year when the horses they board get moved to their property, but they can't move them if they don't have something to eat.


Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Then after that, the nosiness continued. Someone's car alarm went off. I thought it was mine, so I went outside to turn it off, only to find out it belonged to a car across the highway. The owner turned it off, and then I turned around to walk back into my house only to find my nosy neighbor standing behind my barn in a raincoat and hat watching me in the rain. Once the rain stopped, I went outside to check on the hay and the horses, and found that same nosy neighbor standing in her front doorway watching me. It's taking all my strength to keep my middle finger in line with the rest of my fingers. This lady obviously feels it is her right to watch my every move, even when I am on my own private property.

Katharine Swan said...

Why bother? I'd let that middle finger do what it has a mind to. ;o)

Regarding hay, I've heard from several people in my area that it'll be harder to find this winter (though I don't know why that is), and my mother-in-law has commented on the prices, too. Makes me glad I board with people who also buy and sell hay, since it means they always have TONS of it -- and GOOD hay, too!

Shai said...

You don't suppose they could be taking your hay? From what I've read they don't really have any qualms about that sort of thing.

Sydney said...

I just want to point out because I have heard a lot of it lately. Having actually lived and worked on a working farm that does crops AND hay the prices this year are because of the following: First of all there are shortages. Either people have had no rain so the hay did not grow past the first cutting (which was piddly) or there was too much rain which meant hay could not be cut! Grain is at an all time high right now with soy and corn making a much larger profit than hay ever would per acre. We have been selling hay for the same price as it was 10 and even 20 years ago to horse owners! This year a lot of people put in commercial grains because it allows their families to eat! They can take the money they made off the grains and sell it to provide hay for their animals and have a bit left over for their families. This year hay was so risky planting something in place of it meant the farmers families wouldn't go without money for food if their hay crop got ruined, which nation wide a lot of hay crops did get ruined.
I understand your frustration with hay and the man selling it at different prices is something I would personally never do. You can't be mad at all hay farmers for it, we all have to eat too. This year we shipped hay to Oklahoma because we needed money to pay for our horses and our gas and electricity bills. First come first serve. If someone pays me that lives out of our area before the person down the road that I don't personally know terribly well I am going to go with the person out of county. It's a risky business waiting until "next time I need hay" when the money and customer might not be there next time.

TnTConnect said...

I understand your frustration with the farmer changing prices like that. It always frustrates me that I can go out and price hay, then my husband will come home and tell me a different price than I was quoted. Turns out SOME farmers change their prices if they think you are feeding horses vs. cows. What a rackett! It didn't cost them more to make, but because I have horses they think I have more money. Boy are they wrong!

Rising Rainbow said...

I'm pretty sure it will be a hard winter for hay for most everyone.The weather was so extreme throughout the country that it pretty much made for a bad year for growing hay.

Here alfalfa is at $15 a bale and expected to go up much higher. Grass hays are even higher.

Johara said...

The guy I've been buying hay from last year decided to sell his hay for the over-winter high price to CA this year instead of the normal dropping of prices in the spring. Unfortunately, the other guy we're buying hay from this year is already sold out of his first and second crops, and too much of what he have bought is molding. :(
I drove through Wyoming and South Dakota this summer on vacation, it killed me to see piles and piles of round bale grass hay just mouldering out in the pastures. I'd dearly LOVE to get some of that stuff locally!