Lambies!

On Monday while Rain Man and I were out cutting wire away from some old cow panels to reuse them down by the school house we were talking about the sheep. All the sheep were in one corner of the ram pasture and I asked him to guess how many sheep there were. He guessed around 30, in reality there are almost 80 sheep in the picture. Most people underestimate how many sheep there really are when they see them all bunched up. I was explaining that we were expecting babies in December when he said “isn’t that a baby” and pointed to the left side of the herd. Yep, there was a single newborn lamb probably only 24 hours old but definitely not brand new. When all the sheep ran out of the pasture this lamb got stuck on one side of the fence while momma was on the other. I ended up catching it so it could be reunited with its mother. Rain Man got to cuddle the lambie and then set it out so it could find momma. He got called away right after that to go to work.

I hung the gates and put the panels up. I still need 16 4″ anchor bolts to finish my braces but I only have 6″ and 3.5″. The 3.5″ are about 1/4″ too short! I will have to get these in town later in the week.

I came in just at dark and Annmarie and I sorted off the ram and five whethers to go with him over into Alcatraz with the steers. Our ram is almost as wide as he is long! He is so fat. We will be killing whethers soon, maybe this upcoming weekend. We want to pull the ram off so we can keep all the ewes having babies as close together as possible.

Today I decided to integrate my baby chicks with the adult hens. I have 23 chicks that are over 3 months old. I opened the gate to their area and then filled their water and food so they can hang out for another 3-5 days without needing to leave. This lets them think about jumping into the door and making their way out into the real world. The only real problem with this is I have to start watching them to make sure they are getting back inside the coop at night or they will become raccoon food. Come spring time we should have lots of eggs!

Fencing 2019 completed

I feel like it has been forever since I said I would be done with fencing this year but it has finally happened. I was able to finish up the new fence this weekend. It took some perseverance but I did it. While I was fencing I had an assist from the sheep in raking leaves in the yard. They also did the last mowing at the same time. The only real problem with this is they fertilize the lawn at the same time they trim it and eat leaves. This means that the three dogs have an all you can eat buffet of sheep poop and as an added bonus get to roll around in sheep urine and poop both! This makes for very odiferous pets. Its a side effect that has to be considered when weighing the benefits of not mowing.

I spent Friday stretching fence and Saturday afternoon I finished stretching fence. The only thing left was to install a gate and cover two gates and two openings with cow panels.

I opted to spend Sunday cleaning house. It was needed and I was simply done fencing. It has been a long year of fencing and despite the need to get done so I can have the fence inspected by the water conservation district for my grant, I needed a break.

On Monday, I had a new helper, code name “rain man”. We cleaned up and readied the small patch of land next to the front yard that we are going to plant Lavender in next spring. We pulled weeds and found most of the branches. I will burn them on the next burn day but we have been under an inversion so there have been a lot of no burn days.

I brought him out to help me finish the fence but our next project was lifting the back bridge over the creek. We used a handyman jack to lift up the one side then dug back into the bank to prop it up with rocks. The first time we did not have enough rocks so we went for this massive piece of old concrete that weighed 300+ pounds. It was brutal to get back up the hill then down into the hole and into position under the bridge. We did it but it was a close call to not happening.

After that we went into the barn and filled all the feeders and dug out a bale of straw. The straw was buried under bales of hay so we had to move about 25 bales. The Rain Man can sweat! He hung in there and we got the barn all ready for animals as we are going to start locking them in every night. Winter is officially here as we are now feeding them every day.

I ended up having to finish the fencing alone as the Rain Man got called into work. I did it and managed to get most of my trash picked up. Unfortunately, the tractor bucket was full so I will have to go back to get the rest of the scrap metal pieces.

Perpetual fencing

It feels like forever before I am going to get this fence done. I snuck down on Friday evening and worked for a couple of hours and got all the H-braces tightened up. Saturday I worked on getting the first section completed. I used a 330 foot roll of new woven wire and used up about 300′ to make the entire length. I managed to get the woven wire and both strands of smooth wire up and tightened on Saturday.

I realize this doesn’t sound like a lot but each T-post takes 6 clips and I use an old nail to put them on as it is faster than the fencing pliers. My index finger is starting to develop a callous from the nail. I was going to hang the gates but I forgot to bring the anchors and impact driver.

On Sunday I brought the tools to hang the gates and got both gates hung. I started in on the longest stretch of contiguous fencing. I spliced in a new 330′ section of fencing to the 30′ and had to splice in another roll and use up about 60′ more for a total of almost 400′. It took some effort to get the fence to come up off the ground. I finally had to use some spare wire to hold it up loosely and allow the fence to be tightened. In the process of swapping fence tighteners I managed to smash my pink fingertip and cut it through my leather gloves. I had a friend come out with a metal detector and go around the old school house. He found old metal nails!! No riches to be had.

I managed to get the woven wire stretched and clipped up, I got the first strand of smooth wire up, tightened and clipped in place. I got the second strand pulled out and discovered I was 50′ short and will need to splice in a new roll. It was getting dark as we had done the fall back time change Saturday night so I just gave up and went inside. I am figuring another 5 days to get the fence completed. I am afraid I may run out of fencing staples. The last section of fence is all wooden posts and I am down to the last 20% of the bucket. A new 50# bucket will cost me around $70.

I do realize that the fence is taking a while but it is progressing a little at a time. Its not super exciting work but it is getting done and I can see the progress. I don’t mind it and it needs to be done so I can ask for reimbursement for materials from the water conservation district from the grant I was awarded.

I did spot several covey of quail over the weekend. The quail definitely did well this spring and summer. They were hollering and yelling at each other as they went through the bushes. They can be quite noisy. Annmarie took this picture on the way home as they just hung out.

We have locked the feeder cows into Alcatraz and given them their own big bale of hay and protein lick. They are getting fatted up for a January kill date.

Stewart Creek is running, its hard to believe but we have a trickle of running water going down the back creek all the way on the property now. It never runs this early.

Crawling along

I was only able to fence on Saturday and Sunday this weekend as I had to work on Friday. I have to say that if you don’t need to wear the waterproof overalls, coat and boots then don’t, cause that much rubber will keep you dry from the rain but if its not freezing you will sweat a gallon of water inside it. I was able to work all weekend in just the rubber boots and it was pleasant. Now the wind kept gusting then vanishing so I kept taking layers off then putting them back on but at least I can change the layers. I got all of the wooden posts set on Saturday. I had about 1/3 yard of gravel left over and I tossed it on top of the culvert. The culvert has a nice 6″ layer of gravel over it. Saturday afternoon before going inside I loaded the pickup with 2×6 boards so I could go out first thing on Sunday morning and start installing H-braces. I was worried about having enough 2×6 boards left from the corral build but after loading them I had 16 in the back of the pickup and in the end only used 14.

I was going to install the H braces and tighten them with wire but Annmarie wanted me to clean out the pickup and install the stock racks on it before dark so after doing three complete braces I realized I was going to have to stick to just cutting the boards and screwing everything together. I will come back and tighten all the H braces later. Each cross piece is made out of two boards screwed together. Because I kept each brace 6-8′ apart I was able to use one 2×16′ board on each brace. This left me with two full boards over the spring and two full boards to connect the long straight stretches. I need those boards to keep the bull from just lifting the fence at these intersections which he has learned to do.

I had some visitors while I was down by the old schoolhouse. All of our cows in the lower fields came out to see me. Zeke keeps jumping the yard fence to come see me also. I have either been making him stay in the back of the pickup or lay under the pickup for a few hours. Annmarie tells me at night that he doesn’t look like he hated spending the day with me. I just wish he would stay in the yard.

I was able to get the stock rack on with some help and we will be sorting sheep on Monday to send two whethers to the college for butchering Tuesday morning.

Fencing blues

Well it’s going to be a long month as I will be fencing by myself. I spent last weekend working on getting more posts set in the ground! I needed to set as many as possible and all of the wooden posts down by the schoolhouse need to be hand dug. I knew if I dug them out with the tractor the holes would be too big.

I also figured out that I need to install another gate in the cross fence that I had not originally planned. I need to be able to go from the front field into the area around the back creek without going through the bottom area. This way I can let the animals down here briefly without letting them get into a newly planted bottom. Mind you, I have not replanted the bottom yet but it is on the agenda to do in the next two years. This picture shows where I want to install the gate. There is just enough room here to get a homemade gate I had laying around installed. I will just need to hand dig two more holes, set two new wooden posts, install 2 more H-braces and re-stretch two sections of fence. More work for me, I just cannot seem to let it lie half done or not done like I want it. I am always looking for functionality and the ability to go around or move from one pasture to the next.

On Sunday, Mr Expert came out and brought a couple of helpers for about three hours. It made a huge difference. We were able to get all of the hand dug holes completed and we set all but 4 railroad ties, 7 wooden posts and 7 T posts that need driven into the ground. I have used another 2 cubic yards of gravel setting wooden posts. I keep tossing the extra out on the dirt covering my newly installed culvert.

The alpaca are incredibly lazy. The brown one in the picture was laying down and eating. That is pretty dang lazy. I was late and did not get my cutting blades from last year sharpened on time. So I ordered new ones but by the time they got here it was too cold to shear the alpaca. They are truly overgrown. It has been two years since I sheared them. There will be some nice long fibers when I do it in the spring. As soon as the rain lets up the alpaca are getting sheared. We were just talking about them as we have no idea how old they are. We have had them 6 years. They lead a very lackadaisical existence.

Lone Fencer

I have spent the last two days fencing by myself. My helper, Tex, has been a no show. This has caused me to have to adjust my timeline. Together we can do as much work as I can do in about 2.5=3 days. Alone, I am a lot slower, so I have started concentrating on the things that matter. Getting the posts in the ground before it freezes matters. So yesterday I staged all the supplies we had in the back of the pickup and started to clean out post holes by hand. The tractor auger can dig them but they still need to be finished off by hand. I needed the pickup empty so I could bring the railroad ties then a load of gravel into the lower field. The trailer will not go up the hill. I figured out how to load the railroad ties with the tractor today. I was just going to dump them over the side but if I slid the tie down I was able to catch the end of the tie under the top edge of the bucket and just lift it up longwise. This let me just slide it in the end of the pickup! It worked great and meant I only had to slide the tie by hand about three feet. Unfortunately, I had to unload the ties by hand on the other end but only having to lift it once instead of twice was an improvement. I put ties in all the corners and filled the first stretch of fencing. I want to get a section done then move onto the next section. I will leave the wire install as the second to last step, installing the gates is the last step. Wire can be installed when the ground is frozen, posts cannot be pounded into the ground by hand when the ground is frozen. I am learning to prioritize.

I set all the wooden posts in gravel. It just makes things easier and the posts stay tight. I put seven tractor bucket scoops in the back of the pickup. I only needed about 5.5 to set all the wooden posts but the leftovers went over the newly installed culvert. It is still a mud pit as it keeps raining every day. I am hoping the gravel mixing into the mud will make a nice hard surface eventually.

I got the first section all ready, T-posts are installed and this time I even managed to keep them in a straight line. This section goes to a six foot gate, I of course purchased a eight foot gate. Luckily, I have an extra six foot gate on the place already and will use the eight foot gate somewhere else in the future.

This picture below shows the first section of fence I am installing, it goes from one end of the picture to the other. Directly in the middle of the picture is a lone bush along the creek, that is where I am at with T-posts. So I am about half way on them, but tonight after finishing setting the wooden posts I started to pound in T-posts again but I just ran out of oomph! I hit that last T-post about 25 times and knew I was done for the day.

The baby chickens are growing! I had to raise the self waterer another 1/2 inch. They have to be able to reach up to peck at the nipples or it doesn’t work right. This week they are going to finish off the first 50# bag of crumble food. I will need to buy another 50# and then hopefully after that is out I can go to pellets. We are getting 3 eggs a day from 8 chickens now. The 23 chicks won’t start laying until spring but then we will have 30 laying hens! We are only selling about 3-4 dozen a month now.

We ordered the trickle charger for the side by side. The battery is dead and I cannot start it. I am told that this is a common problem for UTV. The trickle charger will stop it. This means I need to wire in a 110v outlet near the side by side parking spot, so I brought all the stuff to wire in lights and switches and once the fence is installed I will be wiring lights on the tractor and lights in the machine shop.

New or recycle?

The weather has been nasty the last two days. Yesterday I had to bundle up in 100% waterproof getup so I could go out and drill holes in the ground with the tractor. The longest stretch of fence is ready for posts and I have started on the two corner stretch already. The long stretch is about 2/3 of the fence-line. I was able to purchase new teeth for my auger. I took a picture so you can see that I should have replaced them sooner. The really worn down teeth were the ones on the outside. I am still waiting on the new center piece but the auger works much better now! I had to go away from my desire for an aggressive center piece as it would not stand up to the rocks that get thrown at it.

One of the things that Tex and I decided was that we really needed a piece of culvert placed in the irrigation ditch. Even though I cannot get the trailer down into the field we will be able to drive the tractor across and not get stuck when weighed down. We are going to use the pickup to move the supplies and it would not make it through the ditch. So I went to the local junk yard and found a piece the appropriate length and installed it. I have a few issues down by the school house. The ditch did not get dug out this year. It needed it down by the schoolhouse. It has jumped its channel and is flood irrigating. I ended up having to spend 30 minutes digging out the channel to get everything back in place. The only real problem was I used the mud to fill in around the culvert. Not my greatest idea but it is raining and there is no spare dirt pile. So yesterday I brought a bucket full of gravel to toss on it and I will do the same today. I may need a few loads but we just had another 10 yards delivered to my never ending gravel pile so there is plenty for this. I just go through the ditch backwards with the tractor. I am getting stuck about half the time but going backwards I just use the bucket to push myself out and off I go.

I have to say that fall is here, when the sun drops down it gets cold very quickly. Another good clue is when the sun breaks through the clouds and shines directly on you the work stops just so you can bask it its heat! Good clue that you might be getting chilled slowly. The ground has a solid layer of clay about 18″ down so the holes are still taking a while but they are going in and I am not digging them all by hand.

I lost my coffee cup yesterday! I was driving from the house, up the hill and down to the school house then across the ditch. I didn’t realize it was missing until I got to the fence-line so I am unsure where it leaped off. Luckily I had a thermos full and it will keep you warm, just take a small cup every hour or so. I have also decided that pepperoni sticks are the perfect tractor snack. They come in a container about the size of a thermos, its dust proof and waterproof. The container opening is large enough you can reach inside without having to remove your gloves. A little rain does not alter the taste or the consistency of said perfect snack. Plus you can store it on the tractor so it is always available! The perfect tractor snack.

I am trying to enter the modern age and last week I accidentally turned on my cell phone camera timer. It took me a while to figure out what I had done to turn it off. Its highly annoying to have to hold the phone up for 10 seconds while you wait for it to take a picture. I figured maybe I could use this function for selfies. The picture below is my first attempt at a selfie. The alpaca look good. I then turned the camera and shot into the building so there was no extra light and it worked. This is my working in the rain outfit. It worked, I did not get wet. It was still cold out in the rain and wind. It blew a 8″ branch out of one of our large trees it was blowing so hard.

On the way back to the house, after having filled all the tires full of mud digging out the ditch, I had to traverse down a steep hillside. It was slick and had a skim of mud on it. I realized this as I was speeding up going down the hill and had angled the front bucket down to use as an emergency brake just in case. As I was nearing the bottom and the gates I was just contemplating engaging the emergency bucket brake when the back end of the tractor slid sideways and I started sliding down the hill diagonally. I opted to immediately deploy my preplanned safety device and we stopped! Luckily, I do wear my seat belt. I had removed the tractor from four wheel drive and this was rectified after I opened the gates and crawled down and across the stream bed.

The nice thing about this entirely new fence is this is the first time I have done it since moving back to the farm. I have always reused materials from the scrap yard. The only thing I don’t reuse is barb wire, but all the T-posts and woven wire are from the junkyard. I did this thinking I was saving 50% in costs. Well now I am not so sure. I was able to build the first section of fence, about 750′ in six days. Now I put in 48 hours and Tex put in 24 hours but it was done. It looks good and it doesn’t really need the wooden stays. In materials alone I had $2000. I am now working on the next section of fence, 1100′ and its even cheaper, $1600. Now I am using some of my old cedar posts down by the school house for aesthetic reasons but it would have only needed five more railroad ties. So when you average that out the fence, in materials only cost around $1.89/foot. A new heavy duty T-post costs $4.29. I am buying them at the junkyard for $2. The trouble with this is I have to buy the T clips for the used posts at a cost of $1.20 per post, they come free with the new posts. The speed at which I can install the new woven wire is amazing! A new roll costs $160/330 feet. I pay about $65 for that used. But it’s a hassle to install, I have to mix and match sizes and then go back and patch holes and the wooden stays that cost $1.50 each are necessary. The new woven wire goes right up. I am going to try another fence brand new and keep track of the costs but I think I just need to plan on $2/foot and do it all new. Time is my enemy and something I am constantly fighting. New will save me time.