Quail are hanging in there

We are supposed to get a big winter storm today. So far the sun has been shining and the temperature got to 43F and now its 21F and snowing. The best part is we only have a slight breeze and not the predicted gale that is surrounding us. I spotted the quail this morning out in the front yard and this evening they were on the back hillside. I counted over 21 quail! If they can survive the next two weeks with snow on the ground we should have a huge population by the end of the summer. We usually only have 4-8 quail by the end of winter. This could make the population boom!

The back runoff creek is running clear. It has dropped several inches over the last few days. Our rock we use to measure it is now visible. Hopefully, the snow will stay in the mountains and melt off slowly. This is our wish every year but it doesn’t always happen.

The hay is running low in the barn so I moved a ton of alfalfa into the barn and out to the old lamb shed for the ram. We are going to start feeding 1/2 bale in the morning on top of the 1/2 bale we feed at night and we are giving two scoops of sweet mix in the morning. The ewes are getting skinny! The lambs look amazing!! You would never be able to guess that the oldest one is only six weeks old by their size

Zeke has figured out how to get out of the yard again. He dug out under the fence near the creek. He is so devious. I almost need to line the creek sides with wire directly under the fence to stop this problem. I tossed another 50# rock in his hole to slow down his escape. If he wants out again he will find another way, there is always another way for a Border Collie.

Annmarie, Sarah and I went out to the barn today to tag and band the rest of the babies. We caught nine babies and four were boys. The triplets were all boys!! We wanted to save any girls from that set as their mother is fantastic but no luck. We still have a few ewes that are not delivering. They are the jumpiest sheep of the bunch and we think the ram had a hard time doing his business with them. So the plan is for us to put the ram back in with the main herd next week. This should get us back in sync for more lambs in 7 months.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

12 singles (35%)

18 twins (52%)

4 triplets (11%)

34 ewes birthed

4 pregnant ewes pending birth

55 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

Production rate:

Birthed 176%

On our farm and alive 162%.

Phil was wrong

I heard that Phil the groundhog did not see his shadow therefore we would not have 6 more weeks of winter. Well we had snow over the last 24 hours and a winter weather advisory. Luckily for us, we did not get as much snow as was predicted and the storm went north of us. Whenever this happens to us late in winter I always start to have a mild panic attack. I am always fearful that we will run out of hay. What would we feed the animals? Yet, having too much leftover in the barn means you paid for too much hay. It would be one thing if we were producing our own hay then some carryover would not be near as big a deal. We could just sell the extra in the late spring to make room for our next crop. Us doing our own hay is going to be a game changer as far as expenses go for us. Paying out $6-7K annually for hay is not worth raising the animals, we need a source of hay that we don’t have to pay for annually.

It’s going to be real close on the hay and will require me to start bringing over alfalfa hay from the machine shed to finish feeding the sheep. It just dawned on me that we may even be able to put up a little straw for ourselves. This will require us to talk with the nice gentlemen growing wheat on the farm. We only use 2-4 ton of straw annually so not very much.

One of the new lambs decided that to get maximum access to the food it needed to crawl into the feeder and on top of the hay. I had to move the lamb out as I was afraid it would get stuck once its platform got eaten away. I never looked to see if it was a boy or girl but since I don’t see a tag in its right ear I am betting its a girl. A tag in the right ear means its a cull animal and all the boys are not keepers. I went out this morning to feed after a few hours of sleep and there was snow everywhere. The big bales are done so the cows are now eating normal 100# bales of alfalfa but these allow them to tip the feeders very easily. I wanted to feed some alfalfa and a little straw to the cows with the tractor. I started up the tractor even with the temperature under 20 F, no trouble. I let it warm up for a few minutes and put it in gear, the tractor died immediately. I did this 3-4 times all with the same results. I lifted the bucket up and down without any trouble. Stumped I decided that it just needed to warm up some more and I went and fed the sheep and horses. No babies this morning. The “wide as long” ewe was still in her pen and still not doing anything. The sheep are starting to mob me as I am giving them grain in the morning on top of their hay and at night I am tossing a half a bale of alfalfa onto the top of their hay.

When I was feeding the ram and his three ewes I noticed that our water was running again. We have a hand dug well on the property from the 1940’s and it has buried pipe that goes to the barn lot and under the creek over to behind the old chicken coop. The standpipe by the coop is broken and needs to be replaced. This will spontaneously start to flow when the ground water level gets high enough in the well. It will run for 3-4 months. Now we don’t have to bucket water to the ram. I just placed a drinking bucket under the running water and the sheep can just drink as much as they want. The pipes don’t freeze as it runs continuously.

I went back to the tractor and again tried to put it in gear and drive away, and the tractor tried to die. I was able to slip it back into neutral and it stayed running. This led me to think that it was the safety switch in the seat. It is there to make sure someone is sitting on the tractor when driving it or running the PTO. I stood up, beat on the seat a few times with my fist, sat up and down a few times and it worked! Problem solved! I fed the cows and went back inside after 2.5 hours outside doing chores.

This evening when I went out to do chores the “wide as long” ewe had finally had her babies!! She had a set of triplets and they were all sitting up and cleaned off. She paid attention to all three so we are going to let her try to raise them. We will leave them in the separate pen for a few more days to make sure they are all eating well and that mom and babies have bonded.

My wife loves fence

I was off work yesterday and thought about getting some work done. I even made a list during breakfast on a scrap piece of paper. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself so I only had four items on the list. Instead a Netflix binge of the second season of one of my shows occurred. I managed to hang Annmarie’s stained glass window in our downstairs window after Netflix went down! So Annmarie can think some glitch in the netflix server for her window. I found some hand made hooks and some painted chain to hang it with on Etsy. We have had this stained glass window at least 15 years. I had it custom made for her from a wonderful lady.

Annmarie has been wanting me to go outside and put up the temporary woven electric fence in the ram pasture so the sheep can get out onto some grass. I really don’t want to do this. We had talked about running a fence from the corner of the chicken coop to the far fence so we could keep the sheep away from the back creek. We don’t want the lambs to be able to get to the running water in case it comes up. Now this was fenced off when we moved here. The fence ran from the corner of the old house to near our end fence. They had no water for the rams as no section of fence touched water when we moved here.

So since it was 50 F today I opted to go outside and create said fence. I did clean out the last of the junk from the craft room so Annmarie can now finish organizing it and start sewing. I have a request in for repair of two of my favorite pants and two new vests with more room in the chest and shoulders.

I have learned over the years how to build fence. I actually drug it fairly smooth with the box blade on the tractor as I had several high spots. I then string up a marker and using ground paint and a tape measure I mark out the fence. This makes construction much easier. I make the H braces 8 feet apart and I makes paint strip (long sided T) for T-posts and then I paint a dot for the wooden stays. I put the T-posts every eight feet and the wooden stays at four feet between them. This makes for a very tight fence and not one that any creature can squeeze through.

I had some trouble using the tractor auger as I hit clay and it would not go through. There was so much heat down in the hole that the dirt was smoking! I ended up having to use the manual post hole diggers and dig out a central hole that allowed the center part of the tractor auger to drop farther. The chisel tip of the tractor auger was riding on top of the clay. Odd part was it was not hard to dig manually but the tractor could not get through.

I managed to get all seven posts sitting in their respective holes. I pounded in 15 T-posts and laid out all 17 wooden stays. I will need to set the wooden posts in gravel tomorrow then cut and form the three H braces. I have two four foot gates to be installed in one location so we can get through the fence later. I am unsure where the woven wire is going to come from on the farm. I don’t think I have any left on my fence pile. I will have to look. I may have a roll up on the back hillside down by the school house. I am hopeful that I have two small rolls still on my fence pile. I have several hundred T-posts in the pile as I keep buying them from the scrap yard for $2/each.

When feeding tonight I lectured the “long as wide” ewe about the need for her to have her babies soon. She is a little more happy now that she has a gate and can see the other sheep. We are afraid to let her into “general population” as she may end up stuck on her back if jostled. The cat has managed to make her way back into the enclosure. We are definitely going to use up all our hay this year. I will be pulling over alfalfa from the machine shed by the end of February.

Trickle lambs

It looks like a lamb but it is just one of the barn cats! I had to really look when I went to feed and water our “wide as long” ewe. The new barn cat has been hanging out with this ewe for the last couple of weeks. Annmarie spotted the ewe chasing her off a couple of days ago. We are hoping that means she will have her babies soon! They get super protective before and after delivering.

The barn is definitely chaos now when you walking through trying to feed. I shuffle my feet so I can just scoot the lambs out of the way as I head to the feeders. I love this part of having sheep. It is pure chaos and cacophony in the barn. After feeding I usually walk through and snag various lambs to pickup and pet on. The ewes get so tame that you can just walk through and touch everyone. During the summer we will only be able to touch 3-5 as they get very wild running around and free ranging.

Every morning and night we go out expecting babies and are disappointed. I did the night chores on Wednesday at night and checked, no babies. I went out, in the daylight, first thing in the morning Thursday and found a set of twins under the overturned wheelbarrow! The little buggers had hid from me the previous night. I chased the mommas out and noticed that their momma went right to them. She had to have bonded well and fed them well for them to survive outside in 26 F weather. I chased the pregnant mommas back into their area and opened up the area under the stairs. I put food and water in there and chased the momma inside. I had to snag both babies and they tried to run away which is a great sign of their strength. I locked them up and left them. I had noticed that they had nursed already so I was hopeful they would get their sea legs back. Last night they looked great!! We are going to write down the ear tag numbers if either twin is a girl because that is one good momma! The ewe is pretty jumpy, but it is her first set of babies but coming back and owning them after they spent 12 hours outside is amazing. No more babies this morning. The twins looked great, but they are small and I will paste them tonight. I didn’t want to upset the mother. I am going to have to increase the height of one wall under the stairway. the gate on one end is low and I need to raise it. We like this area as a crèche. Normally, it was just sitting unused but this is the second year we have used it and its handy.

The two DeWalt battery work lights are amazing! We now have them at each end of the barn and if you turn them both on the entire barn is lit. We are seriously considering two more, one for each hay room and calling it good. We were talking about installing solar and a 12 V storage system with LED lights throughout the entire barn. That was gonna cost about $2k without labor. For $480 and 4 hours of labor to install mounting spots we can have better than daylight light levels inside the barn.

We are talking about a water storage tank for watering in the winter. The water could come from the roof and a gutter system. This is purely in the discovery phase. I would love to find a 500-1000 gallon water storage tank for fairly inexpensive. I also still need a manure spreader! So keep your eyes out for one, looking for an older one that needs a new floor. I want it to work, but it does not have to be pretty.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

13 singles (39%)

17 twins (52%)

3 triplets (9%)

33 ewes birthed

5 pregnant ewes pending birth

46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

5 babies dosed only

2 babies undosed

Production rate:

Birthed 185%

On our farm and alive 161%. 150% is great, 125% is bare minimum. We are winning!!

Water runneth

The back creek started to run this week. Its pure runoff from the mountains and runs about six months out of the year. On Monday night I spotted some standing water in the creek, on Tuesday when I came home I heard it running and it kept me awake all night. I again thought that I should go out and lift the fences from over the creek. I did not do this and Wednesday when I came home the creek was a torrent! I ended up spending an hour in the dark in my wader boots trying to get the fence out of the creek and the weed dams to broken up. Every year I end up out in the dark surrounding by raging water trying to lift the fence. I tell myself that every year I should go out on the very first day I notice the standing water. I never do, I always wait until the last minute.

The upper fields are improving but the one is solid green while the other is just having the green start to poke through. I keep hoping the second field will take off. Today I had to start feeding the cows alfalfa. At the rate we are going through feed I am sure we will end up with some left over. The cats are going to be disappointed when it goes away as they keep tunneling down into it to stay warm.

I spent an hour with the new calf table cleaning it up and trying to get it to work. I managed to get all the pieces moving but I can only get the table to lean back 45 degrees. Annmarie tells me for $50 I had to expect to work on it more than one hour, but hopes springs eternal in my mind and I was hoping for instant success.

I thought I had misplaced the box blade but managed to find it after a couple of hours. This is super good as I do not have to admit to the wife that I misplaced it. See it was sitting right where it was supposed to be.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

13 singles

15 twins

3 triplets

29 ewes birthed

7 pregnant ewes pending birth

46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

3 babies dosed only

It’s the small things that count

Annmarie has been learning how to make the laser cutter do cool things. She made some cool wooden signs for the church and I found some old screws in the shop to attach them to walls and doors. They turned out very nice.

I spent the weekend catching up on little things. I clear coated the wooden signs and in the process I was looking for screws afterwards and I found our missing closet door!

The door has been missing for months. I was certain I had put it in a very safe location inside the house but we could not find it. Annmarie even admitted to seeing it once but forgot where in the house she spotted it. I had searched multiple times to no avail. It doesn’t do any good to put my slippers on the shelf when the dog can just reach in and grab them. I did manage to lose the screws for the door. I went to the hardware store and got new ones. I never did find the box of wood screws I know are somewhere on the property.

I mounted a couple of battery lights in our under the stairs closet. This is my fourth attempt at a light that will keep working in the closet. I like the motion detector ones but they are cheap and they break fairly quickly. There is power on wall in the adjoining craft room and I am going to drill a hole and install an outlet in the closet so I can install some under cabinet lighting in the closet. This will take a little planning but I believe I have all the stuff to install the outlet out in the old house.

I sanded the door stop Annmarie made on the 3D printer and sprayed it with black paint. She has blotted brown over it to age it and I will shoot it with clear coat and install it upstairs in the hallway to prevent the breeze porch door handle from hitting the wall.

Today was the tag and band day for all the sheep. Annmarie was at church so I went out and got ready to do the deed. The funny part was the 10 mommas are in their own area and one was laying down. She is as wide as she is long and I was sure she was in labor so I tried to get the other moms out so I could isolate her into our original momma/baby area. I managed to spook the small group and they went barreling by her and rolled her onto her back. She could not get off her back! It was just like a turtle on its back. She was hollering and waving her feet in the air. I got everyone out then had to go lift her onto her feet. She is now ensconced in her own pen with food and water and hopefully tonight she will have healthy triplets. If she has triplets and is paying attention to them we are going to let her raise them.

I went into the hay area and grabbed a partial bale of straw and made a chair for me on the barn floor. I laid out all the needed tools and started to catch babies one at a time. I had tagged 10 girls and one boy when I started to worry about the imbalance in babies. Mother Nature tends to keep it 50/50 when it comes to gender. I started catching more boys but it goes to the nature of our animals that the girls are calmer and easier to catch than the boys. When I thought I had everyone done I started to catch the babies and drop them over the middle panels so I could count them and make sure everyone had an ear tag. This causes the barn to become a very loud place once the babies and mommas start hollering at each other. I counted 46 babies and I found the one little lamb I had missed earlier. I was pretty sure I had missed one but could not spot it amongst all the babies. I let them rejoin and then had to push everyone back into their own area.

I had a few boys that just do not like the banding part. Some just lay down for a few minutes and call it over and others treat it like you just killed them. This little guy took the drama to a whole new level. He was playing dead.

Annmarie had talked to me about installing a board next to the feeders with two eye bolts so we could attach the gate directly to the feeders. Getting in and out when it is only bungee corded to the feeders does not make for a smooth gate transition. I had to to dig a hole in the straw to make room and then take it to the shop and drill holes and install eyebolts. I had to cut a small piece of wood off the feeder and install the new hinge point. It is much more secure and easier to get open.

Annmarie got our Weather Underground station to work today! It is now on our blog homepage. This is a great addition to our ongoing homepage updates.

Is it really winter?

It is turning out to be a very weird winter. It was in the mid 40’s yesterday and it is the middle of January. We have only had snow on the ground once all winter. Our new weather station says we are getting lots of rain. We are pretty sure something is wrong with the rain gauge as it says we have gotten 4 inches of rain since we installed it. I tried to find an official source of rain on the internet and I found a lot of weather history but could not find anything current. Internet search engines are not always my friends. It is so warm I am secretly plotting my spring projects already. Annmarie is not so secretly planning my spring projects also. We had a conversation this morning where she lined out my summer projects:

1. Plant front hillside

2. Install above ground sprinkler system on front hillside

3. Install above ground sprinkler system in orchard using 3-300 foot long 1″ poly pipe sections with valves, moving small water pump to ditch and figuring out how to wire in a 110 plug and switch into the main irrigation control panel. Without electrocuting myself in the process hopefully.

4. This will also require me to pour some concrete to reinforce the bank and stop the leak currently running through the center of the retaining wall.

5. Redo the last section of yard fence. This should prevent Gizmo from sneaking out of the yard.

6. OHH and finish assembling the back porch wooden furniture and stain it or option 2 was to “burn it” as this will be the third year its been on my list. I should make this #1 but the other stuff can be done in marginal weather and this needs to be perfect.

Plus I need to plant 7 acres of Alfalfa, find or purchase a small seeder, hay 20 acres and fix barns so they will take the round bales without pushing the siding off the outside walls. Create a system of 4 foot racks on each end of my flatbed trailer that will stop the bales from rolling off. I need to weld a few hooks on my trailer for that to work. Which means I need a welder. I still need to purchase the hay equipment and get the financing worked out. I want to fix some fence and spend one week doing fencing on the bottom. It’s going to be a busy spring and summer. Yesterday I went out to the barn and played catch up again. I try to hit it hard on my first day off so I can plan out the next two days. I went out and fed the sheep, cleaned out the feeders. They are full of dirt that was in the hay and had to be dumped out. I threw down a bale of straw as the chute was very messy. It has been very wet so the sheep are making a mess. The straw helps create a clean layer and compacts down so it is not so muddy. We had twins born on Thursday and there was another set when I went out Friday morning. Both times the babies had just been born so we lock them up with momma and then give them selenium paste and move them into the main herd in the evening. This leaves eight ewes left to give birth. At this rate we are hoping to be done by the end of January, which would make our lambing season 38 days, or two estrus cycles for the ewes. We could get a second ram and maybe shorten it to 24 days but then we have to feed two freeloaders instead of one and its harder to control the genetics. So we are going to just stay under 50 ewes and keep one ram. I had to feed the cows also, and I finally spotted the second calf. We now have two calves to tag and band but one is pretty big. This is going to be a problem. I already have to have a nephew help as even the little ones at a month are more than I can hold down and work on alone. We have been talking about a calf tipping table but new they are $1300-1500. Nothing related to livestock is cheap. So I have been putting it off as the hay equipment takes priority. I used the last of the large hay bales and will now need to break out the trailer and attach it to the tractor. I will have to load the 100# bales of alfalfa into the trailer, drive down and break them open into the feeders for the cows at least twice a week. I only had to feed once a week with the large bales. I will only have small bales when we do our own hay.

Our ram is off in the bull/ram corral and we discovered that the horse trough is too high for the sheep. We have just been scooping out a bucket or two and breaking the ice when needed. It was so warm I managed to turn on the hose and fill the entire trough. This will be enough water for the rest of winter for the four sheep that are in this enclosure. So nice not to have to bucket it from the creek. I may need to install a gate down near the creek so we can have easy access. Now you have to go all the way around to get to the creek to bucket out water.

Since I used the last of the large hay bales I was able to take the last two panels of the horse round pen and install them into the round enclosure in the barn lot. I just need to get a premade corral gate and Annmarie will finally have a dedicated circle pen for the horses after many years.

I also spread out one of the compost piles from the barn. It was nice and rounded and tall. Moisture is only getting into the top six inches. I moved all the dirt to the right side and knocked the whole pile down to 3 feet tall and very rough on top so the maximum amount of water gets absorbed and none runs off the top of the pile. I want it to turn into dirt.

After the morning chores I went inside and groomed Gizmo. He does not appreciate being plucked. I was able to get the Mohawk hair do back to its dazzling do. He no longer smells like mud and sheep.

I went to the local custom wood cutter to pick up my lumber I had picked up at auction this fall for the boosters club. While I was there it dawned on me I had not been to the metal scrap yard across the street in quite a while. I used to go every few months. So i pulled in and spent 30 minutes wandering all over the place. They have a bunch of galvanized culvert (I don’t currently need but may in the future), I found some small cable I can use, they have some T posts, a single roll of woven wire and a calf table! The table is exactly what we have been looking for and it was right there! I went in and negotiated an amazing price and arranged to pick it up next week and left. Three hours later I came back for the table. You just never know if it will still be there next week and I could not pass it up. It needs some wire brush and paint but other than that I think it is good to go! All in all it was a very productive day. Today it is already raining and miserable outside. Annmarie did morning chores and there are no new babies. So I am doing my laundry (no under wear left). I had this discussion with Annmarie this morning there are only four reasons to do laundry

1. No clean socks.

2. No clean underwear.

3. No clean work uniforms.

4. No clean dress clothes.

She knows that running out of laundry hamper space is no deterrent due to my mad stacking/piling skills and strategic leaning techniques.