Vacation prep

I am supposed to go on vacation this next week so I spent the weekend prepping for my vacation. It’s really a staycation as I am not going anywhere. Our front upper spring has quit running. It is amazing as it did it midSeptember. I need to harden this outlet by piling in a bunch of rocks. I am going to pickup rocks from the barn lot and dump them all here. I have been working the barn lot to smooth it out, this in turn has caused a lot of rocks to surface. I now want to plant grass seed in the entire barn lot to hopefully choke out the cheat grass next year.

It was the Pendleton Round-up last week so I had to work lots and Annmarie did her first stint in the Mounted band. This caused me to not put the sheep away every night. It is now the weekend and I have no more excuses so I am traipsing up into the upper field every evening to put away the sheep and horses. One may ask why it is always me at night? That would be because Annmarie traipses out there every morning to let the sheep and horses out of the barn lot, same reason I do the dishes if she cooks dinner. This little fawn kept running up toward me after I got the sheep in and was in the process of shutting the gate. I have a buck tag this year but we only have about 8 deer on the entire property. One of them is a little buck that I keep seeing every few weeks. I am hoping he is here during deer season. I have yet to draw a doe tag.

I spent two days working on the front fence. I blasted it with high pressure water one evening then scraped it with a wire brush the next day after it had dried out. I spent 7 hours the next day painting it. Painting is my least favorite job ever. The entire fence has a single coating. I even took the time to use the pressure washer on the concrete walkway. It looks much better.

Odds and ends

It has been one of those catch up weekends. They must come around as the honey do list can keep growing. I spent a few hours on Friday working on painting the front fence. Did the same thing on Saturday and one half is now almost done. I have two small sections to paint but the weather got wet and I could not finish.

We have had some summer rain and lightning storms this week and the sheep don’t really feel the need to rush out into the upper pasture and expose themselves to the elements. We had not seen the three, soon to be eaten cows, in over a week. They have been staying at the far end of the pasture and we don’t bring them in at night. Just the horses and sheep have to come in every night. Annmarie and I had just had the discussion that neither of us had seen the feeder cows and I was going to have to go hunt them down. They were kind enough to be standing by the gate when I let the sheep out in the morning.

Now that the alpaca are confirmed killers we are constantly having to check on them to make sure they are all still alive. When you drive up the driveway and see this, you do a double take and then look for signs of breathing. The chest movement is visible as they breathe!

We had 13/100 of rain last night and this morning, when I was out doing stuff today I kicked over some dirt to see if that was going to make a difference, not really, it was only about 1/4″ below the surface then it was dry again. We are going to need a lot more rain starting in late October, not before. I went in and paid for an agricultural burn permit, which is needed if you are going to burn more than 2 acres. There are not very many issued for the county, less than 120. It’s Round-Up week so all agricultural burning is banned Saturday to Saturday so nothing can get away and pull services away. My plan is to burn right after Round-Up and then start planting grass seed. I want to get 20 acres of grass planted.

Today I needed to check the oil in the UTV, it was the last thing I needed to do before we put it into service. This entails pulling both seats out and the center console. The oil level was good but I could not get the center console back in. It took me 20 minutes and three You Tube videos to realize that the cutout will never hold the seat belt cable. You have to move the seat belt out of the way then it just pops right into place, its ready now.

I know that deer season is coming up soon and we are going to be killing lambs in the next two months so I needed to get the gravel moved into the hole I dug around the skinning posts. I spent three hours today moving 12 yards of gravel from the front pile to the skinning pole. It looks good and now I won’t have to wear my mud boots when I am cleaning animals! The water should just go down into the ground and stay away. This improvement has been a long time coming. I just need to get the flood light installed on the outside of the chicken coop now.

I am getting ready for the big grass seed push coming next week. I am taking vacation from work so I can hit it hard.

Fields are ready to burn

I made fresh fried potatoes with onions, a touch of jalapeƱo and bacon grease for breakfast. It was very good, after I dished out Annmarie’s portion I added bratwurst to mine and fried it all together. The brats were left over from a couple of days ago and already cooked. I knew I was going to get on the tractor and stay all day. I drug a path next to the wheat field back and forth with the disc. Mind you its only four feet wide and it takes a few passes to notice anything when there is that much vegetation on the ground and it is this dry. I spent all morning doing that and getting the last 7 acre field at the far end of the property. All the fields have bare spots around them and a second bare patch next to the wheat field. I even came up behind the machine shed and disced about an acre of ground. I picked up an entire tractor bucket of wood, metal, rocks and twine as I broke the ground apart. There was a lot of hidden stuff out there.

After I was done with the disc I went and got the harrow/arena groomer and went over everything again. The nice thing about the groomer is the tines will collect the organic material and I was able to just pull over and shake it off out of the way and go right back to clearing a path. This worked well and now I have nice flat and clean paths everywhere. It made a huge difference in leveling out the area behind the machine shed.

One might think it odd to plant that little area but I need a spot close to the machine shed that I can practice using the combo planter/seeder. I have yet to hook it up and apply power to it yet. I also need to set the seed rate and depth once I get started. I want to do all this close to the house so this serves three purposes, it gets the area all cleaned up, it lets me practice seeding and the alpaca will have a newly seeded grass area. Zeke decided to come see me around 1400 today. He jumped the yard fence and came and found me. He played out in the tall weeds and would come within ten minutes of me calling his name. The only real problem is he is being rewarded for jumping the fence. We pushed the sheep and horses back into the barn lot and I picked another bag of plums. There is about 3-5 gallons of plums still left on the tree. The cows stayed back as Zeke was hanging out under the tree with me while I picked.

Zeke was filthy and just covered in these small round stickers about 1/8″ in diameter. I got a brush and the defurminator and set to work on him. He was not happy. I got his head and neck and most of his back. He growled and snapped at me once and we had words. I told him it was his own fault. I let him go and he ran under the front porch and would not come out. Annmarie had to get him out and then she used a gentler brush and I picked them out of this fur. We spent an hour doing that. She asked me if I would bathe him, but he again ran under the porch and would not even come out for Annmarie. I went and showered and she used cheese to entice him out from under the porch. He doesn’t mind a bath and once he figured out that was all she was going to do he settled down.

Stickers are no joke. I ended up with a piece of cheat grass in my left ear last week! It is not fun.

Now I just need to get a permit for burning.

Planting prep begins

To be fair, there was a reason I slept in this morning, I was up for several hours in the middle of the night volunteering with the Quick Response Unit, so Annmarie let me sleep in. She did not want to wake me to let me know the dogs had been fed so she left a note for me in the one spot she was sure I would find it, the hot water dispenser! I make French Press coffee every morning no matter what, it tends to be the first thing I do in the morning. Now she did call and wake me up as there was a screamer lamb out in the field and she thought it might have gotten trapped on the wrong side of the fence last night. I was having a hard time sleeping in anyways, so I made a cup of coffee and a large thermos of coffee to go and let the horses and sheep out and up into the upper pastures. We have been trying to lock them in every night due to the coyotes and there have been wolves spotted nearby also.

The one good thing about staying up half the night was that I found out how to get an agricultural burn permit and what I needed to do to burn the fields. I need to do it for the weed control. Anything over 2 acres needs a permit and a burn perimeter. So I started today working on a burn perimeter.

Before I could get going I needed to clean up the tractor. I should have fueled it as I only had half a tank but if I have a full tank I can run for 8 hours and this limited my time away from the house. So I blew out the air intakes on the tractor hood, the radiator screen and the radiator. As I was contemplating the ambient air temperature and my last tractor overheat I was trying to figure out what would make the tractor heat up? Working hard, but how, pulling lots of weight? Running PTO? What about forcing the engine to work harder with less oxygen? So I popped the air filter can open and took out the air filter, holy smokes! I was able to beat out about 3# of dirt out of the filter then blew out another pound with the air hose. I was covered in ultra fine dust before I even got started. Luckily, there are two filters and the inside filter was almost spotless. I cleaned it but there was not much dirt at all, just a little skiff. I put it all back together and headed out to get the arena rake.

I thought I might be able to use it, but after fighting for 15 minutes to get it attached to the tractor and taking it down the side of the fence line twice I could tell that it was not going to work. So I brought it back, took it off and found the disc setup. I practiced in the barn lot getting the disc to work properly.

I ended up drinking a lot of dust with my coffee throughout the day but it was still good!

I ended up going around the perimeter of three fields and now have a 30 foot fire break around each field. This was me after a couple of passes. I tried to go upwind as much as possible but it seems that 50% of the time that is just not possible, so not all the brown in my coffee was creamer. The middle pasture had a nice break already from us clearing it to install the new fence. I disced up the dry ground to be visible dirt so there will be no fire creep. Last pass for this field. I got three fields done and only have one tomorrow. I did have to come in and get more fuel but that was good as I blew out the tractor radiator and intakes again. I never had an overheating problem today and it got to 92 F. On the way back I stopped at a blackberry bush to eat my fill, I had skipped lunch. They were amazing but the yellow jackets thought the same thing. I finally had to start shaking the berries before tossing them in my mouth so I would not toss one in with a yellow jacket on it inside my GI tract! After drawing blood a couple of times on the thorns attempting to get away from nasty stinging things I gave up on the berries, I had already eaten a couple of cups anyways. As I was headed in I remembered that I promised Annmarie I would pick plums from the tree in field. We got a few pounds last year from it, the first time in 12 years but this year the tree was loaded. I guess it likes all the water it can have as the new spring runs right next to it.

I moved the ladder around to pick the fruit but its in a U-shaped depression and the fruit ladder does not want to function in that environment well. I got some off the top of the tree and then resorted to lifting the tractor bucket four feet off the ground and crawling it it to use it as a platform. That first plum was super sweet and literally burst with juices as I bit into it. You can see the juice near my foot in the tractor bed! I started to fill up the 2.5 gallon bucket and tossed the overripe or bug eaten ones to the cows. One cow was wiser than the rest and he realized that there is nothing to be afraid of and everything to gain by coming up close.

I have no idea what type of plum these are as the tree is probably over 60-70 years old. They are golden with a rose blush and yellow meat and very sweet. I started to throw the other cows fruit as they were missing out. Everyone felt like it was safe to come over as long as I was in the tractor bucket.

My stupid chickens are getting agitated. I am pretty sure the raccoons are coming down and harassing them at night. Now they cannot get into the coop, but the windows are open and the chickens can hear them. I have metal fencing stapled over the outside of the windows to prevent them from getting in through the screens. I only had one brown egg tonight. I cannot get only one egg from 11 chickens per day, the math does not add up.

Mower still broken

Our mower is still broken and the lawn needs to be mowed again. This is a conundrum that can be solved but it does have a few drawbacks. Its messy, the sheep do not know how to limit droppings to only one part of the yard. This then makes golden tasting nuggets that the dogs love to eat which in turn makes them vomit randomly or get the runs themselves. Now the indigestion is sort of random but it is a chance you take with sheep mowers. Now on the plus side, you just have to open the gate and lawn gets mowed! I do have to clean off the walkway when they are done.

Sheep mowing our yard again! I need to do this for several evenings until the sheep have gotten it short enough. They do have a tendency to eat my fledgling trumpet vines. I think I am going to have to put up a temporary fence next year to get the vines some growth.

They also tear up my temporary fence gate. The post is broken off at the ground and i have four boards and some temporary scrap metal holding the dogs in. It cannot take 80 sheep trying to go through a small opening all at the same time. Annmarie tells me this is a sign that I need to get this 100 feet of fence rebuilt. It’s on the list for this year.

While I was putting tools away from the pickup I noticed that my old chicken coop fence was still up. I need to start getting the gravel moved over for the skinning post and the fence is in the way. I have been meaning to rip it out all summer long and have not gotten to it. So I took 15 minutes and ripped it out of the ground and away. I need to move gravel over here in the next two weeks. I am looking forward to not standing in mud while we are washing and skinning animals. I may even attach a sink to the end of my stainless steel table and set up a faucet that I can hook a water hose into! There are two old cast iron and porcelain sinks over by the old house that I have been saving for just this purpose. It looks al lot better with it gone. When I was driving the tractor through the barn lot I noticed that our front stream is starting to wind down. It is still running but in a week or so I expect it to stop. Our spring on the other hand shows no signs of slowing down but it won’t be fed with surface water from above soon.

I did order new blades to shear the alpaca and I ordered a spacer so that I will be leaving them about 3/4 inch of fur. This should stop the cuts and its going to get cold soon. This will be happening in the next 1-2 weeks.

On the bad news side, the raccoons look like they are now coming up to our house. I had a chicken die of old age and I had placed her body outside the coop on the roof of dust box enclosure about 3 feet off the ground. It disappeared! I will be moving the live trap up to our house this weekend and setting it with marshmallows.

New spraying rig

Annmarie and I have been discussing the need for a vehicle that can assist us with spraying weeds. In my dreams this vehicle is autonomous, but I don’t see that happening any time soon. We talked about getting another tractor but honestly could not justify the cost. We started looking at online auctions for a side by side in the last six weeks. We were starting to pick a model type and looking at run hours and price points. We knew we did not want a new one and we needed an actual utility vehicle so we could mount the sprayer in the back. Annmarie wanted one sooner rather than later but I wanted to pay cash and according to the auctions we were gonna have to pay around $6-8k and then pay shipping, most of them had around 1000 run hours and may not have a title.

My mother-in-law, Donna, called Annmarie to say there was a UTV for sale at the coffee shop. I called on it and it was every thing we were looking for in a UTV. It had four wheel drive, 500# load bed limit, tilt bed, and ended up only having 352 run hours on it and it was a 2006, that means it has only had 27 hours a year put on it. It looked brand new! It happens to have a custom stereo with speakers mounted in the overhead and doors! I have yet to check out the sound system in action. Most importantly it has two cup holders so I can have double the amount of coffee! We paid $4900 cash and now have it stored under cover in the machine shop. We are not leaving the keys in it. Annmarie wants me to get the broken lawn mower fixed. It will start but after about 10 minutes it just cuts out and will not start. I need to get some work done on the chainsaw also but to get it to town I need to clean out the pickup. This is an ongoing source of contention at our house as Annmarie thinks you should be able to hop in the pickup at any time and drive to town. This option is always available for one person if you don’t mind the mess and tools. Plus, you cannot lock the doors as we have no key for the doors anymore after I lost it last year. I agreed to clean up from the fencing and rental work done today. I only need to move two buckets and sweep out the back and I will be done. I still need to empty tools out of the cab tomorrow but it will be usable as a people vehicle very soon. As a farm truck it is fabulous! A few years ago while we were at an auction I bid on a STOP sign. Annmarie asked me why we needed it and I told her that I would find a use for it eventually and for $5 it was a great price. I was emptying the pickup fence supplies and spotted the sign, it is now mounted on the outside of the machine shop between the UTV and our tractor and all our new hay equipment. A perfect reminder for everyone and a cool way to repurpose an old sign.

One more field fenced in sorta

On Friday Hoss and I went up to the swamp field and worked on getting the creek side fence installed. I was hoping to get it all done on Friday, but my back was bothering me so I took medications and kept working. We ran out of woven wire! I even called the metal scrap yard but they only had one roll. We happen to be using some 48″ woven Red Brand fencing so it did not require any smooth wire on top. We quit around 1400 and I ended up going into town and picked up a single roll of woven wire and two utility panels. I keep calling them cow panels but when I go to purchase them I have to remember to call them a utility panel or they cannot find it in the computer.

I was unable to get up and go out and work on Saturday due to my back pain. An ice pick and napalm had nothing on it. Hoss finished getting the fence up, hung two gates and blocked off a four foot section. He is done for the summer as I have run out of money! The fence still needs a couple of days of work as I need to install all of the T-post clips in it. He put enough in it to hold up the fence. The sheep are now roaming all three fields and can hopefully tear up the far field. I don’t think they can knock it all down but they can hopefully thin it out.

Last night we got a call from Annmarie’s mother that the raccoons were out enforce on her front porch. So Annmarie grabbed the 22 rifle and I grabbed the trusty Walther P22 pistol. I have not gotten a laser for the new Ruger Mark IV yet. I gimped around the house until I found second flashlight and we walked down to the house. There were five raccoons on the front porch! The real problem is you cannot shoot any so we had to go up to the side of the house so we could shoot sideways and not hit anything. I shot at a couple of the large ones as they darted off and sent Annmarie around the back of the house so see if she could finish them off. This is where the story gets fuzzy. She claims that I do not get to count the raccoons as dead unless there is a body. The raccoons did get hit, but they do not die easily. I ended up with one dead and hit at least 2 more maybe three. She keeps telling me that I need more practice and in that I agree. It is a lot harder to hit a moving target in the dark than it is in the day. So I am going to have to put about a 1000 rounds through my new Ruger pistol. It has a five inch barrel instead of a two inch barrel. Its time to let the Walther retire and move up in the accuracy department. I need a laser and a holster but Annmarie reminded me I can use my vest with built in holster until I get a new one. I also need at least one more clip as I almost ran out rounds last night. Five predators is a lot of moving targets to be trying to kill in the dark. I need more rounds. So according to Annmarie I only killed one raccoon as that is number of bodies I tossed onto the bone pile.

While I was digging around in the bushes for my victims (they ran away) the cows came running over to the fence and started to holler. They get fed apples almost every day so they think all humans should feed them. I spent 20 minutes picking up and tossing them apples from the yard. I noticed two calves that still need ear tags and one needs banding. We have a brand new calf but that cow was not getting any where near the fence. She had a brand new calf nursing on her. I could not tell whether it was a boy or a girl from that far away.