Took a break

I took a break on Saturday and went pheasant hunting.  There was two of us and the weather was cold, dreary, foggy and wet.  I was hoping it would keep the pheasants from jumping too early.  We took Bailey with us.  She loves to hunt, but doesn’t understand the concept of staying close.  She gets locked on a bird and nothing else in the world matters.  After the first hour she started to tire and it was much better.  My hunting partner shot a young rooster and I missed a clean clear shot at an older one.  The pheasants wanted to jump early and were very spooky.  We saw over 30 roosters.  The only ones we almost stepped on were hens.  We spent four hours slogging all over the property.  I was very tired, a little cold and very wet from the knees down.  It did start to rain the last hour we were out.  I came home, warmed up in the shower and then laid down on the bed to just “stretch out”.  I woke up 1.5 hours later after hearing this voice call out my name repeatedly.  I thought it was a dream.  Annmarie was going to town and could not find me.  She had hunted all over the house (except our bedroom) and was outside calling my name.  I gave up on being productive and went to town with her to run errands then we had dinner with her folks.  It was a very nice day.  Gotta get a lot of chores done today and some quality time with the wallpaper.  I only have 23 days before our company shows up for Turkey day.  The count down has begun!

sheep in training

Here is the flock minus two.  The three dark brown ones in the middle are boys.  The farthest one is a wether (castrated male), the white faced middle boy is our up and coming ram (Lucky is his name because he is not getting eaten), he is in training and learning from our current male.  Lucky imitates our current ram.  It is pretty funny to watch.  Oreo is the large ram in the front of the trio of dark colored sheep.
On the far right and far left are our two new female lambs.  They should be ready in the Spring to start having babies.  We decided to not dock their tails.  Everything I have read about hair sheep says you do not have to do it, so we didn’t.  I will know in a year if it was a mistake or not.  All the sheep we purchased already had their tails docked.
The larger central three sheep are our ewes.  They are all three pregnant at this moment.  We should be getting lambs from two of them in November and one in December.  Now, we are locking the sheep up in the barn every night so we can find the lambs.  Hopefully, this will also prevent the coyotes from killing the newborn lambs (lost two last year this way).

Here is the back side of the barn.  You can see all the critters running around together.  The dogs were in the yard just so the sheep didn’t get spooked.  The dogs can run around with everyone also, but one of the pregnant ewes head butts our chocolate lab when she isn’t looking.  It causes chaos.  I wanted some relaxed pictures.  The lab and rug rat dog do not attack the sheep, cats or chickens.

The cats don’t do well with the chickens when the chickens are small.  They look like food (quail) and get eaten.  Once they are adults then the cats will leave them alone.  It is pretty funny when you are trying to feed the chickens bread.  The sheep come over to eat bread, the cats come over to eat bread, the dogs want bread and the chickens all scramble around trying to get whatever is left over.  I put in the bridge for the humans but one of the lambs taught all of the sheep to use it so now everyone uses it, even the chickens.  Go figure…

Library progress


Here is the closet before I got started.  You can see I have the power pulled and my sheetrock patches in place.  The wallpaper is killing me.  It is taking forever to get off.  Hence my desire to do something else (closet). 

Everyone was gone today (still are) so I made great strides on the library closet (pause while I remove bandaids from my finger tips, too hard to type).  I wanted to get the pegboard up in the closet, but I needed to close in the return duct going through the closet.  As no lumber is straight anymore and no wall inside any house is square or plumb it was quite the endeavor.  Yes, I did make a substantial blood sacrifice in the process.  Any carpenter will tell you that it is essential when working in tight spots when nothing is straight, level or plumb!.  I can finally feel my fingertips on my left hand now.  I smashed them good.  I was wondering if my primer’s stainblock guarantee covers blood?  I tried to hide it all, but I think there is some showing.  On the bright side, I only had to go to the hardware store once.  I needed some longer screws.  I had too short and too long, not just right.  Besides, the hardware store guy, (name edited for privacy sake) buys eggs from me and I needed to deliver them.  I randomly drop in with eggs every once in a while.

Here is the duct before I got it covered.  This is a return duct to the central heating system.  It pulls from the living room goes under the house and comes back up here.  It goes into the library ceiling for about four feet.  So we won’t be able to raise this ceiling unless we just want to box in the duct.  I don’t really like that unless it is a basement so we will just live with the ceiling a foot lower in here than everywhere else.  It is hard to tell since you have to go under the stairs to get into this room.
The blue bag is powdered milk for the baby sheep.  Enough there for the next three years at the rate we use it.

Here is the finished enclosure.  Not too shabby.  I still need to throw some primer and paint on things, that will happen after I get the sheet rock up.  I want to prime and paint all in one step.  I hate having to keep washing the walls all the time.  It does get tiresome.  Annmarie is picking up some paint tomorrow.  Sherwin Williams sent us a coupon for 30% off and I had been thinking about getting some more paint, so that just cinched the deal.  I had them mix it up already.

 Here it is finished.  I even hung one basket to make sure I had the pegboard far enough away from the wall.  I have a few small pieces of trim to install.

No more excuses to not tackle that wall paper.  I tried scoring it and using Downy and water on it.  It helps, but it is still taking forever.  Someone suggested I use a heat gun.  I can borrow my father’s and give it a try.  We have company coming the week of Thanksgiving and they will be sleeping in this room so I am sure they would like some light.  So I need to get all the wall paper down, all the mud applied to the walls, texture applied, primed and painted then wire in all the outlets and the light.  As an added bonus, I am doing the small area under the stairs at the same time.  It just needs some new tongue and groove wood and lots of mud.  I will take a picture of it soon.

New Treasure

Steve unearthed a previously overlook treasure this weekend during his cleaning and winterizing. Can you spot it in this photo? It’s right there tucked into the stump.No, it’s not the pump, although that is neat too. It’s smaller than that. Look closely. Yes, that is a fruit press tucked up into that corner. I have no idea how old it is, but I don’t ever recall it being put to use, so it’s probably older than I am. Steve tested to see if it still turned, and it did, so he set it aside. After he was done with everything else, he sat down and worked it over with a steel brush to get some of the rust off.
Here he is, doing his best Wilson impersonation. Everyone does remember Wilson, from Tim Taylor’s sitcom of years ago, right? He scrubbed it up with that steel brush, and then hit it with SOS pads, and then we went down to Mom’s and got two medium-sized moving boxes of apples from her

tree. She doesn’t spray, so they were wormy, but we’re juicing them, so it shouldn’t matter. Just cut out any bad spots and squeeze the rest to mush.
We go run some errands, and then I settle down to finish some prep work for this week’s classes. I had two tests to write, and a pile of homework to grade, so I wasn’t paying much attention to what Steve was doing. He was in the kitchen, so I figured he was doing the dishes. It eventually dawned on me that it doesn’t take that long to do the dishes, and I’d heard the tea kettle whistle, so I figured coffee was nearly done, and surface to get myself a cup.
Upon entering the kitchen, I find Steve trying to hold the press still (it’s intended to be bolted down) while turning the handle. He’s got a gallon of apples about squeezed down to about half their original volume. It’s not an easy thing to do, and it’s even harder when the thing won’t hold still. So, I help by holding the handles for a little bit. Steve’s working awfully hard at turning that press, and he gets the apples down to about one-third their original volume, and he’s got about 2/3 of a cup of cider. Yes, that’s an awful lot of work for a tiny amount of cider. We develop a plan bolting the press onto a board and clamping that to the kitchen counter for actual cider production, and head off to the living room so Steve can make his post of last night, and

I can finish my work.
This afternoon, when I come home from classes, Steve says to me, “The more I think about it, the more I think that press is a great decoration, just like it is.” Now, I was pretty sure we’d end up there eventually, so I’m actually pretty impressed that he came to that conclusion before we mounted the thing on a board. We may still mount it, but now it’ll be for decoration, rather than any attempt to make cider. He still wants to make cider, but I think we’ll eventually purchase a press that’s slightly larger and has much longer handles so we can get better leverage. So, this lovely piece of history will eventually stand on a nice wrought-iron stand and grace a corner of our kitchen.

Winterize

Chickens wandering the property, I ended up making a burn pile of all the different broken tree limbs and discards.

I spent all day Saturday shopping and getting ready for the big remodel in the Library.  I have all the pegboard, plywood, 2×2, 2×4, and sheet rock needed to fix everything up.  I also bought 500# of wood pellets for the chicken coop litter.  I use the deep litter method in the coop so I (and Sarah) only have to clean it out once a year.  By the time I ran my errands and unloaded everything I didn’t get a lot more accomplished.

 So on Sunday we made great strides to get the farm ready for Winter.  I followed Annmarie’s advice this year and shut down the outside water!  I don’t want to have to replace those risers again next year.

new bedding and the nipple waterer in the chicken coop. 

 Sarah finished digging out the coop and put in new bedding for the chickens.
  I added a nipple waterer inside the coop.  It is just a five gallon bucket with three little mechanical nipples inserted in the bottom.  The nipples don’t let the water drip out of the bucket, but do form a small drop of water on the end of them.  The chickens peck at the water causing more to come out and they learn how to get water in no time.  Our babies only took a single day to get the hang of it.  I love the no mess angle.  The other waterers cause quite a mess inside the coop.  The other nice thing was this was very cheap.  Annmarie got me a couple of aquarium heaters to use inside the bucket this winter.  We are hoping it is enough to keep the water thawed.  I might take some insulation and tape it to the lid and sides using a feed bag and some duct tape on the outside of the insulation.  Still thinking about that.  It is probably necessary.

 We cleaned up the steps and windows.  I added stepping stones to the yard so you can cross it in the Winter without getting all muddy.   The baby chickens are not  very good looking chickens.  I keep reminding myself that they are not for their looks, they are for the eggs.  They are supposed to lay true blue eggs.  We will see.  I should start getting eggs from them in the next 2-3 months.  That will be the true test of whether the seller was truthful.

 We decided that it was time to let the babies out with the adult chickens.  They are not really babies any more, but the roosters are not crowing yet.  I have a banty hen that is tiny, she might get eaten. She is a little Showgirl that was free.

I went out to lock the chickens up last night (have not forgotten since our favorite chicken got killed) and one of the babies was outside the coop in his enclosure on a perch outside alone.  I had to grab him and take him inside the coop.  All the babies were in their pen (door wide open) crouched down on the floor together.  It will take about a week for them to integrate with the other chickens.

  I also crawled up on a ladder and attached a chicken weather vane we found somewhere on the property.  I cannot remember where now.  I fixed the wood shed’s loose tin roof.  It had a piece on the end that would flap and bang around during a wind storm.  Sarah cleaned up all the buckets we had laying around outside and all the Summer chicken supplies that need to be put away for Winter.  We are pretty much set!!  I am sure something else will come up, but for the most part we are ready.  I also attached a cow bell to the sheep barn entrance.  We are going to start teaching the sheep to come in at night with food and a tolling of the cow bell.  It will probably take a couple of weeks to teach them that the cow bell means night time lockup.  We should have a couple more lambs late next month or early December.  I think next month, but I forgot to write it down and cannot remember now!!  Go figure.

unexpected critter

Well, I haven’t lost any more chickens.  Of course, that could be because we have not forgotten to lock them up!  We have been leaving the trap baited during the day in a hope that I may catch something.  Well, I did catch something just not what I wanted.

Three days running this bird kept coming down and eating all the leftover dog food.  The last time it was in the trap long enough to get tired.  Annmarie said the bird let her pet it and bring it out of the cage.  It has not been back since.
I did catch a kitten tonight.  I did the shake and release treatment.  Maybe that will freak it out enough it stays away.  I plan on getting some chicken coop time this weekend to get ready for winter.  I need to finish digging out the deep litter and hanging the other waterers.  Luckily, I found the cause of my short in the coop.  I changed the breaker today and went outside to attach a waterproof cover on the back of the old house.  One of the screws I put in to hold the outlet in place rubbed through a hot wire and was shorting out the power feed.  So it is fixed!!!  Woo, hoo!!  It was fairly easy!

Predators 15, Steve 10

I am gaining but so are the predators.  Caught another raccoon last night  (so far 8 raccoons and 2 skunks down).  This one was very large probably around 25#.  I am betting this is the one that ate my favorite chicken.  It will be eating my chickens no more.  I really feel that the predators can quit coming for a free lunch at any time.  I cannot keep feeding them.  I now have 26 laying hens and I think only 7 of the babies are hens( they have another 3-4 months before they start laying).  If I lose another 15 hens in the Spring I will be down to 19 laying hens!!  I really need another 2 dozen babies in December.  But without a guaranteed heat source the babies will die.  I would have to mail order the chicks and shipping for them is around $40.  So those 24 chicks would cost around $120.  Those same chicks in the Spring at the feed store would cost $72.

The problem with that is I am having power issues (I hated to admit this).  I wired the chicken coop and have had the breaker trip three times in the last week.  I am not sure why it is tripping.  I only have the chicken light plugged in to that circuit.  It has four outlets wired with only the one inside the chicken coop in use, two of the others are on the outside of buildings but they have waterproof covers over them with the flip open doors for access.  So I am truly not sure why it is tripping.  I may have to just change the circuit breaker out and hope that is the problem (since it is the easiest fix, what do you think the odds of that are?).  If not, I am going to have to tear into each outlet and see if I have some wires touching.  After that it gets complicated.  So we are going to hope that one of the first two fixes works.  I may also put a waterproof cover inside the chicken coop.  Not for any water, but to keep the dust out of the outlet that is not in use.  Chickens are very dusty.  The last thing I need is a fire in my chicken coop.
So I am not sure what to do.  First thing is to fix the power supply.  Once that is corrected I will have to decide on purchasing new chicks this Winter.
I did find out today that around 1 ton of grapes is around a normal/acre yield.  (I read any where from 2-6 tons/acre depending on soil condition)  So ideally you should make around $3K/acre/year, but I was told that doesn’t always happen.  Truly, we would like to make around $20-40k/year net.  I expect it would take 20 acres for that to happen.  So I will keep up the research and question asking.  A friend offered to hook me up with a honest irrigation supplier and post supplier.  He just said to let him know.  I have a coworker whose husband is a vineyard manager.  So I plan on using that angle but it is harvest time now so I am leaving him alone.