Predator wars on again

Yesterday I got a late start and started mowing the fields at 0630.  I had plans to get out of bed at 0500 but that just did not happen.  I needed to mow the bottom four fields as they were getting covered in cheat grass and weeds.  The fields do better with a mow job.  I will spray them in a week or two.  I have a new seat for the tractor but I keep losing the bolts out of it.  I have lost two already.  I need some lock tight to go on the threads.  

The cows were hanging out by the school house and since I was on the tractor they just ignored me.  This allowed me to get a good picture and discover that Annmarie was right we do have new calves!  I found a second brand new calf.  So fairly soon we will need to run the cows back into the barn lot and tag and band.  I did not check to see whether they were a boy or girl.  I stopped around 1000 to load up 2.5 yards of prime sheep poop compost for a friend.  They left some fresh blueberries and an amazing sour raspberry jam.  The jam is so good I will need to get the recipe.  I managed to go all day until 1600 mowing without overheating the tractor!

I attribute this to two things, first thing was I blew all of the dust out of the radiator, inside engine compartment and even opened up the dust filter and cleaned off both filters.  The second thing was I figured out how to get the mower to ride parallel to the ground by lowering the back wheel allowing the cut grass to get out of the mower blades and not bogging the tractor down. This allowed me to go all day without killing the tractor once.  

I finished mowing around the machine shed today and then spent 45 minutes cleaning off the dust and weeds from the tractor and mower with water.  I want to finish pulling out the old flooded fence in the barn lot tomorrow.  I will need the box blade put on so it adds weight to the back of the tractor giving me the necessary traction.  

I also spent another 45 minutes cleaning out the back of the pickup with water so it is neat.  Annmarie wants me to pick up the antique rocker we purchased a couple of months ago and I need a clean bed for that to happen.  The real challenge will be keeping the pickup clean until then.  

The manure trade involved a young 3 month old rooster residing at our place.  He was running around with the hens yesterday.  I have not seen him at all today.  I am not sure he survived the night.  He probably did not go into the coop last night and is raccoon food.  I have another coworker who is looking to get rid of a couple of roosters, it may be time to give her a call.  The predator wars are definitely back on!

I have started clearing the lavender area again with a shovel.  It takes longer than I realize every time.  I spent three hours on it today and it needs another three hours.  Unfortunately, I did not water all the little plants consistently and there is some significant lavender die off.  I am back to watering every other day and we should know in a week how many actually survived.  This is totally my fault for not watering them more frequently.  

 

Auction score

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So frustrating, my blog company is trying to get me into the 20th century and now wants to upgrade my editor abilities to include “blocks”, which as far as I can tell are snippets of information that are standalone and are inserted into your blog.  It looks cool, but it means everything is independent and instead of 3 choices I now have 30 and they can all be independently modified.  I tried it this morning and just got frustrated, it is looking like my blog time will triple and honestly I don’t have time for that, so I am back to the old archaic version until they force me to use the new, which I am sure they will eventually.  I had a cap on the pictures I could insert this morning so I will be attempting to do the blog more often as there appears to be a cap on how many pictures I can upload. Even with all of this and the changes I have still managed to keep this thing going for over 10 years now, which surprises even me!

On Sunday, we decided to forgo sleep and working on the farm and went to an estate auction.  The weather was cold, windy and very rainy at times.  Despite all of this we managed to buy some new living room furniture for $200 and a jewelry box for Annmarie that almost paid for itself when we took out the liner to oil all of the wood and discovered a little money hidden inside.  I found one of my favorite of all times auction finds an antique clothes drying rack.  These are far and few between and this one is in great shape.  I will get it all cleaned up with some soapy water and that is it as I don’t want oil to get on our clothes.  This thing is great!  I am going to mount it on the wall in the laundry room.  I was told by the lady who sells reproductions, for $40, that I must of really wanted it as she kept trying to outbid me for it but I really did want it.  After we got the furniture unloaded into the house we took a long nap as I had worked part of the previous night.  I was very tired after all of that and carrying the furniture inside and did not want to take the old furniture out as we had no place for it yet.  Now we still have two sets of living room furniture in our living room and dining room and I am on 14 day home/work quarantine, even Roomba can hardly get around.

When I got home on Monday the dogs were throwing a fit by the back corner of the front yard.  I went over to investigate and noticed that they were staring up into the tree, it was a squirrel!  Hopefully it was “the squirrel” that has been down at mother-in-law’s house.  I went inside, grabbed the 22 and dispatched said squirrel.  We cannot let them get established as they are incredibly hard on the power lines and transformers.  They are the number one reason for power outages in cities per the power line worker who I talked to when we lived in a city and lost power due to a squirrel.

On Tuesday we had more rain and Annmarie reiterated the “no carcass, no count” rule in our bid to eradicate the rockchucks.  It is a fair rule but it does make it a lot more challenging.  It does make it very clear cut, no subjective “I got it” interpretations are allowed.  I had held off on cutting hay on Saturday and now that it has rained twice I am glad I did.

On Wednesday, Annmarie called the shipping company to ask about our tire bark.  They have failed to deliver it twice already and have had it for two weeks.  I did feel a little sorry for the person on the other end of the line, but we did get our ground cover!  Five pallets, 5 ton should be enough to get all of the ground cloth covered up and secured in place.  Now we just have to install it all.  I spent part of the day trying to mow the weeds and grass around the place, I ended up overheating the tractor attempting to mow a thistle patch.  I will try it again early in the morning, not at high noon when its the hottest time.

On Thursday I was headed out of the house by 0445 to go to work and Gizmo was just ranting and barking at the front fence.  He would not come back in the house meanwhile the border collies were just running around the yard.  I got him to move a couple of feet and there were raccoons on the other side of the fence!  I ran back into the house and grabbed the 22 rifle.  I considered shooting from the porch but there is the fence, the cars the corral all in the way plus Gizmo is out there terrorizing them so they don’t come in his yard.  So as I ran up the pathway to get to the cars and the raccoons started running for the barn.  I only got two shots off just as they darted across the 16 foot gate opening at the end of the corral.  I missed, we didn’t even need to enact the no carcass, no count rule.  There were five of them!!  My chickens are not going to survive five raccoons.  So war is officially on again!  But the real question is do I get to start counting all the rodents we kill in on the predator kill count?  Is that cheating to just inflate the numbers?  I think it is so I will continue to only count animals that kill my chickens as this was the original definition of a predator.    When I got home Annmarie had me grab the binoculars and we drove up the driveway to look for a new baby calf she had spotted the day before.  Again,  we had given up on the last two cows having calves as it was just not happening so we had turned the bull loose a couple of weeks ago.  Sure enough there was a new baby calf out in the field.

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Spa Day

Slim came out today to help groom the alpaca.  We sorted animals last time so it was alpaca shearing day.  Annmarie tells me we should just arrange to have it done with someone else local we know who has a custom shear outfit come do their animals.  I need to see about getting our fiber processed and then decide what we are going to do but for now, we do our own.

We had to move the shear table around, run power cords out to the barn and get all the tools ready before we caught any animals.  We then rounded them all up and put them behind the barn.  I caught the first one and we started in.  First, you put the halter on, then you stand them up next to the shear table and then swing the table down and hold the alpaca on it so it is now laying on the table.  Tie both respective legs together and stretch the animal out on the table.  Tie its head to the corner eyelet.  Now shave half the body.  This year we only kept the saddle portion of the hair. Once you have all but the lower feet and head shaved you untie two feet and shave them.  Next you use the hoof trimmer scissors to cut away the curved toenails.  Try not to cut the foot or get the quick on the toenail.  So far I have not made a single alpaca bleed this year. Now do the other feet, shave then cut toenails. Tie every body part back up and let the head loose and remove the halter, shave the head and now its time to rock and roll!  One person holds the head, the other one takes the hard rubber dog chew toy and gets it into the alpaca mouth and holds it in place so I can cut out the fighting teeth.  This all has to be done so that I don’t cut the tongue or lips with the finger saw.  Once that is done then I have to take the Dremel tool and grind down the front teeth so they are even and match up with the top hard palate.  It smells and its not fun.

Once the animal has had its full spa treatment we untie all legs and let the head go and I spin and rotate the animal off of the table.  It works pretty slick and we don’t have to try and lift the table and slide them off off of it.  We tried that and they are not very graceful.

The alpaca are the ultimate passive aggressive animal.  We managed to get 6 of 8 sheared today and only one did not do the belly flop and refuse to stand up.  As you can see above they just lay down and we had to lift them up, shove your knee under their belly and then flip the table to a horizontal position.

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We had an audience for most of the day.  A new barn swallow who we are pretty sure is not ready for the great outdoors.

We had to stop when the power went out.  We later learned that the wind blowing knocked over  a tree which in turn killed the power to a large area for a couple of hours.

 

We had lucky number 7 alpaca already on the table strung up and ready to go.  We did his toes since he was there and then let him go.  We will get the last two next week hopefully.

As soon as we let the first four out they ran over to lay down and scratch their backs on the grass and weeds.  Slim and I emptied the pickup bed and removed the gravel so we can take the pickup and trailer to an auction in the morning.

Annmarie went out and cut herbs from the garden and wrapped them all up.  I hung them up on thee breeze porch to dry.  As soon as the upstairs bathroom is done I will clean up the breeze porch again.

Annmarie missed another rock chuck out in the ram pasture.  I ran upstairs but when she started to fling lead it ran out of my field of view.  I may have to put out some targets in the field and up on the hill so I can do some practice shots from the bedroom window.

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Scaring away rock chucks

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Mr Professional came out to the house and picked up bales of hay from the orchard and drove the trailer over to the barn.  He has been working on another project in town that Annmarie asked him to do so his time on the farm has been limited.

On Thursday, Annmarie spotted TWO rock chucks down in the ram pasture and went out the front door with the 22 rifle.  She flung lead at them and they got away.  I saw this all from the living room window.  Without a carcass she gets no kill credit.  She even admitted she missed.

Friday morning, Annmarie’s spotted another two rock chucks and went outside and started flinging lead again.  Again, they both got away.  I was not home at the time but she told me about it.

I had gone out to barn to move the hay inside off of the trailer.  It was a mere 98 degrees F and I did bring some water.  There were 60 bales to go in from the orchard haying (1.25 ton) and someone had to do it.  I got them all in the barn and stacked.  I needed the trailer cleared off so I could go and see if the metal scrapyard had any panels or culvert for me.  I found some amazing panels but the owner was taking them home and I did find a piece of 4’ culvert hidden in the back corner inside a piece of 6’ culvert. I will come back in a few weeks after I gets some more haying done and have them pull it out and cut it down to 16’ long.  I decided to go with a longer culvert.  The gate is 16’ wide and that would allow any size truck to cross.  I am going to use Rasta blocks and install a concrete wall on both sides of the culvert so it can withstand the water cresting it if needed.  On a plus side, I did not pickup any scrap metal and they gave me a sold recommendation for a portable welder.  I will be buying a Miller Multimatic 200 and using flux core wire.  I have been shopping around looking at prices but it looks like $2200 is the price I am going to have to pay. This is less than the allotted $3k I had set aside for this needed purchase.  It will even work off of my generator and will do 110/220v power supply.  This was a major tip and I am grateful for it.  I will be converting my old small pickup bed trailer to a welding trailer and mounting the cutting torch and welder and generator on it all so I can just hook up and go!

I was dragging after unloading the hay in the heat, tired, did not feel good, so after my shower I am upstairs dressing and Annmarie started shooting again at rock chucks!  At her opportunity rate I am going to have to increase my accuracy to offset it.  She shot at two more rock chucks.  I am thinking its the same two she always shoots at.  She now has to sneak out the back door as they will run away if you use the front door.  Friday morning I had removed the screen from our bedroom closet window so I could get a shot off if needed.  It doesn’t show the whole ram pasture but I can see  the hillside.  I spotted a rock chuck running up the hill and got off two shots.  We both missed.  My plan is to now just use the upstairs window when I want to shoot at the rock-chucks.

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This is my view from the upstairs bedroom closet!  I have a decent field of fire if they run for the upper rock pile.
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The needed but dreaded sorting of animals

It had to come, the animals all needed to be worked and sorted but it is always a painful task.  Making matters worse is the fact that we decided to work the sheep and the cows in the same day and to complicate it even further the barn lot flood damage has not been repaired.  Annmarie went down stream with Mouse to push the cows up to the house.  They were doing great, one of the cows then the herd tried to bolt around and Mouse headed them off and got them turned around.  Five minutes later one of the cows decided she was a greyhound and took off, Mouse was unable to get ahead of her, he was able to catch up to her but ran alongside her and could not get her to turn.  This caused all of the cows to break and Slim and I and Zeke had to go down to the school house to help bring the cows back up.  This event seemed to crush Mouse’s ego and he then became a terror towards the cows and would not listen.  He was determined to get a few licks and bites in before we quit working the cattle.  Despite a couple of warnings he persisted in ignoring us until it was pointed out to him that he was not the boss by me.  He kept ignoring Annmarie, which is unusual as he prefers to work for her and not me.  It took us an hour to get the cows up into the corral.  The bull and boys were just on the other side of the gate.  We needed to pour insecticide over the cows and to tag and band Cupid who is another boy.  The really screwy part is that we thought there were two calves that needed to be addressed.  Nope, one of the calves managed to rip its ear tag out.  I had to grab its ear and find the hole to make sure.  We sorted the cows and took our original green tag cow and three more heifers off of the main herd then let the bull, the steers and our little bull in with the the rest of the cows.  The little bull is only six months old and the cows are in heat so by the time he is ready to breed them they will all be pregnant.  We are going to eat him this winter.  Cupid doesn’t have the true white heart on his forehead like Valentine does.  I took more pictures of Valentine while he was in the corral.

 

I am going to have to work on the corral next year.  When I built it I had talked about installing thread all bars between the railroad ties in the chute.  I decided that it would stop me from walking down the corral on top which I like to do.  The cows have spread the chute far enough apart that my two internal gates are no longer latching and we had to chain the chute exit to stop them from pushing out.  I may just use cable and bolts with an inline tightener and some thread locking compound so it doesn’t come loose easily.  I will shrink the chute back up another three inches.  I won’t lay boards over the chute as it would form a tunnel that would cause the animals some consternation.  The four separated cows will go up onto the Upper Prime field.  They have lots of food and fresh water.  This will get them two fences away from the bull.  The old cow will just become hamburger and stew meat.  Annmarie and Donna have both been victims of this attacking cow and they will be very happy when she is gone.

 

Slim was helping us with the cows and then the sheep.  The sheep were a lot harder.  First, we did not know how many we had, I assumed we had about 105 and Annmarie thought we had 120, in reality we had 112.  Getting to the number 112, that took us sorting the sheep five different times and four people counting.  On the plus side, both Annmarie and I had the count right the first time but Slim and Mr Professional had different numbers so we kept counting until  the numbers stabilized and matched.  It’s hard to sell what you cannot quantify.  I realize this sounds easy but we spent almost two and a half hours sorting sheep.  We thinned the herd again hard this year.  It was time to do another heavy cull, we do this about every 5-7 years.  The first time we sorted off breeding ewes we had 48!  Our ram has a hurt foot and is kinda fat, he needs fewer females so we sorted ewes until we had 34 ewes and 1 ram.  This herd went into the upper prime pasture with the cull heifer cows.  We have 77 sheep to sell, 28 of them are cull ewes and we are keeping 9 lambs for us and for local customers.   We will put them into the orchard after I finish getting the hay put up.  The rest of the cows went down into the lower bottom, winter feed field. It has peas growing in it but the thistles and cheat grass are still present in significant quantity.  It will not be hay this year but the peas are good for the soil and good for the cows so it is a win regardless.

Slim and I then went onto fixing creek crossings to keep the sheep in their allotted space. Mr Professional went to go bale the hay in the orchard while the Future NASCAR driver worked on getting lawn beat down with a weed eater.  It is out of control and our mower needs more work.  The flooding caused some severe erosion in Stewart creek.  The picture on the right shows the ripples in the stream bed, every one of those ripple edges is part of a volcanic solid rock shelf, those were not visible prior to the flooding.  It just tore the earth away until it hit something solid.  We tried to move the stump out of the creek but its too heavy.  We cut branches off and once the creek dries out I will get in there with the chain saw and cut it up.  We needed the branches moved so we could drop the panels back down into the creek.  A new cable was installed across the top of the fence from rock crib to rock crib.

We then went down and tore out the panels and fencing from down by the Mother-in-law’s house.  I built a new fence alongside the spring in the orchard so this small fifty foot section was no longer needed.  We took down all the fence and salvaged the panels crossing the spring to use down below at the creek crossing.  The stream widened the bank by at least four feet down by our other crossing so we needed a couple more panels to bridge the gap.  I have also started to install my horse shoe latches at the gates.  Once we had that done it was time to call it quits as it was almost 1700.

Slim beat me to the house as Annmarie, I and Mr Professional were discussing a weed and trying to determine what it was so she called it quitting time and headed out.  She did send me a text but I had her take a picture of the lower creek crossing as my phone was dead.  LOL.  The plan is for her to come out and help shear alpaca next week.  .