catching up on the farm

It snowed last night.

Well everyone survived us being gone for five days with our daughter in the hospital.  Thanks to our nephew who came and kept things going.  We had several people offer to help out, we appreciate that.  I cleaned out the back room of the chicken coop today.  I emptied out about 20 empty bags of feed that were just randomly thrown on the floor.  It was getting hard to see where to step.  I really need to dig out the coop, but it only got to 22 F today.  Kinda cold to be working out in the coop.  I need to get it dug out and build the quail run so I can get baby chicks!!  I need another dozen laying hens.  I am going to get Brahmas.  I realize they take a while to mature (around 9 months) but they are very cold tolerant and they lay really big eggs.  So that is what I am getting.  This needs to be a priority, but I have at leasts 3 more trips to Portland to take the child to the hospital, so it is going to be hard to squeeze in.

Hay pile as of 2/25/2010.  The sheep only use about 1/2 bale/day
and there are 19 bales left.

I went out and fed the sheep this morning since it snowed.  They of course were letting me know that I should have been out there sooner.  I really think that the faker (pregnant/fat ewe) may actually be pregnant.  I haven’t seen a baby yet but her belly keeps getting lower to the ground.  I had to take stock of the hay today. It is going to be close!  I didn’t buy any last year since I had so much left over from the year before.  I may have to get some…

On a positive note the sheep are looking pretty good.  I still need to worm the five adults and band the other male baby.  So on Monday Annmarie is going to have to go out and help me.  We will chase them all into the barn and close the door so they cannot get away and we will get it all done.  I chased the sheep out this morning just so I could get a picture.  I also got to hold and pet on the baby girl.  She did not get out of the feeder fast enough and I caught her (she climbs into the thing instead of eating from the side).

Yes, the dog had to get in the picture.  She wanted to play with the babies but no one would let her get close. All the babies are hiding in front of the flock.  Sprout (our brussel griffin ankle biter size dog) went out to the barn with us (Bailey, chocolate lab and I) and then proceeded to disappear.  I called for 30 minutes and walked down to my in-laws house, but no Sprout.  I even started yelling “cheese” at the top of my lungs.  He loves cheese and will come to that call after ignoring every thing else.  We really should just change his name to “Cheese”.  I am sure he would come much better.  He stayed outside for over 2 hours.  He was covered in frost and snow when he finally showed up.  I put him in his kennel for some contemplation time.
I took this barn picture after I fed the sheep their hay.  Eventually, the barn will not have a gaping hole in the roof!!

The chickens are not eating as much food this month after I got rid of the five dead beat dads that were free loading.  I suspect next month will be better yet.  My feed price is over $11/bag now.  Hard to believe I was paying $8.  The chickens are not laying blue eggs.  I took a picture just to prove it.  Every once in a while I try and say that one is kinda blue, but Annmarie just tells me it is still green.  The nice thing is I am getting more green eggs now.  I like the variety.  I have one chicken that lays a white egg.  I may get a couple of white egg layers this year also.  Just a thought.  I planted new grass seed in the baby chicken yard this fall and it has just started to creep out of the ground.  I am going to be ready for chicks soon.  My new favorite feed store already has baby chicks in.  Unfortunately, it isn’t any breed I am interested in.  They only have the top three standards and I don’t care for any of those.

Night patrol

Last night Annmarie went to bed early, so as I was shutting the lights and TV off she called downstairs for me to come up to the bedroom to listen out the window.  We sleep with our windows open in the bedroom even during Winter.  So I went upstairs and listened, didn’t hear anything but Annmarie thought she heard a bird calling out.  I recalled that we had sent Sarah outside before dinner to lock up the chickens and sheep but sometimes the chickens get overlooked (Sarah likes to play with the baby sheep).  So I went and woke the child up to see if she locked up, she never really woke up but managed to say “no” in her daze.  So I went downstairs and had to choose, Walther P-22 with laser sight or pistol grip 20g shotgun?  I usually use the Walther at night but I was annoyed and didn’t want any predator getting away since it is 2230 and cold outside.  So I opted for the shotgun and a hand held flashlight.  I did a perimeter check around the chicken coop (it was locked up, Sarah had done it earlier) and went over to the barn to check up on the sheep.  All was good.  I cannot afford to lose any hens.  I have more demand for eggs than I have supply now it would only be worse if a predator kills off some of my hens.  

I have made the decision, as of April 1 the price for a dozen “free range” “farm fresh” “naturally fed” eggs will be $3/dozen.  I am going to get a dozen full size Brahma hens this Spring.  They take a little longer to mature and are a huge chicken.  My chickens weigh in around 5-6 pounds, a Brahma hen will weigh in around 8-9 pounds.  So I may end up separating those eggs eventually if they are just huge compared to my others.  I get some pretty big ones now.  If they are super huge then I will sell “jumbo” eggs a few times a week.  
I did start on my hallway today so I will try and post some pictures by Monday.  Hopefully I will be done in six days.  

Winter is hanging on

It snowed this morning, this of course led to another discussion about the bridge.  Annmarie had to do the “old lady shuffle” to get across the bridge.  The slant to the left keeps getting worse by the day.  You cannot reach out and grab the railing or it will give and dump you into the front creek.  It is very annoying.  So I am definitely on the lookout for two sections of 4 foot diameter culvert 10 feet long.
Sarah and I went outside this afternoon to rubber band the other boy lamb.  She gave them some cracked corn to get them to move into our little pen.  I ended up catching the lamb outside the pen.  I have learned to take 2 rubber bands outside with me.  I had the lamb on its back with my knees on the ground and the lamb between my legs trying to get the scrotum through the band when the rubber band flipped off and disappeared into the grass.  After swearing and bending the fingers on the rubber band pliers I tried again.  I got it, but let me reiterate that this is a skill that needs some practice to become proficient in.  I do not make it look smooth or easy.
I had decided that the sheep need to be wormed.  So Sarah stood in front of the opening and I proceeded to catch the new little girls, put them on their butt and stuff dewormer medicine into their gullet.  Five sheep later plus a bonus last year ewe lamb we let them out.  While Sarah was getting eggs I managed to snag Lucky (our new ram, who is almost a year old).  Lucky is solid!!  Weighs in around 120#, not as easy to throw around as those 50# little girls and he has horns.  I held onto him until Sarah came out of the coop and drew up the medicine for me, success!  So only five more sheep to go and they will all be wormed.

I wanted a snack so I cracked open those pickled quail eggs.  Well, Emeril was right, they needed all that cayenne pepper and those hot peppers.  The eggs were very vinegar tasting, not hot at all.  I definitely need to cut back on some vinegar next time and add lots of peppers.  I even made Sarah try one and all she said “it tastes weird”.  So next time I make some I will use more of everything but vinegar.  Trial and error until you get it right.  It was how I learned to make the perfect cheesecake.  

Bug war is on

The Bug War is on!!  I came home yesterday and there were bugs everywhere.  We have box elder bugs (wax bugs, black and red winged annoyances) on the ceiling on the floor on the windows all over the ENTIRE house. I went back to town and got some more insecticide for use inside the house.  I sprayed around the doors and windows.  I then fired up the vacuum cleaner and vacuumed every visible bug I could find, a few hundred.  They are trying to take over.  I would have sprayed outside around the footing and eaves but the wind was howling.  I will do that when the weather cooperates.  Annmarie brought home some sonic chasers.  They emit some nasty sound that supposedly only the bugs can hear.  Yep, I can hear it.  A very high pitched whine.  She tells me I will get used to it.  I am willing to give it a couple of weeks, especially if it will help with the bugs.  We think they are living under our breeze porch.  I may have to crawl up there and fire off a bug bomb if this last round of effort doesn’t pay off.  The chickens have been eating the bugs outside but it doesn’t seem to be helping any inside.

I am going to castrate that other male baby sheep this weekend.  I was looking at the sheep today when I let them out of the barn and they look kind of skinny in the back haunches.  I think I may have to worm them soon. I might even start feeding them some hay.  Annmarie read in a farmers magazine we get that for sustainable grazing you should not have more than 1 unit (1000 pounds of live animal(s)) per 2 acres of pasture.  This would be 8 sheep for us on our current fenced pasture.  I need to get the rest of the fence done.  I want to create three other independent pastures so that we can rotate the sheep.  Each pasture is supposed to get at least 2 weeks of rest before putting the animals back on it.  We keep finding little tidbits the more we learn about self sustaining farming.  The funny thing about this is 100 years ago everyone did it this way.  It was very labor intensive to put up tons of hay so you rotated animals, pastured them in the forest and let your pasture grow so it could sustain the animals as far into Winter as possible.  Now we are trying to go back to that.  Most food was grown on small farms.  Not true now.  Well, our meat is going to grown right here and it does make a huge difference in taste.  

Dining room light installed (finally)

Well I did it!  The light is officially in and it only took me 3 years.  Now the ceiling has only been in for a year so those other two years don’t really count.

New dining room light.  Missing a light bulb.
Yes – I know.

Here is my starting picture.  You can see that I was already cutting the shiplap to make room for the new outlet box.  I forgot to snap the picture before I did anything.  The new light hangs down farther than I remembered.  I knew it needed to be lower as it is over the table, but it hangs down 3 feet.  The ceiling is only 9 feet tall. On the plus side as soon as we moved the table under the light then it is no longer possible to hit your head on the light.

Opening a box that you hadn’t seen in three years is a bit like Christmas all over again.  I had remembered that this light was a larger version of the one over the kitchen sink – kind of kettle-shaped.  And that’s what I’d been describing to Ann Marie for the last year or so every time we talked about this project.  She got a little bit suspicious that maybe I didn’t recall exactly what I had purchased when I opened up the box and there was a piece of hardware with three sockets, and no huge shade.  Luckily, she likes what I actually did purchase.

I’m hoping to start working on actually refinishing this table soon.  But first, the upstairs hallway needs to be repainted and wired so we aren’t tripping along in the dark when we put the dogs to bed.  It would be very nice to actually be able to see.  Part of that project is also painting and trimming out the attic door.  After I repair the two screws that have pulled through.  We’re actually getting pretty close to running out of small projects.  After the upstairs hallway, the next thing on the list is finally installing the utility sink.  I count the upstairs bath as a small project too, but Ann Marie disagrees.  That’s because she doesn’t share my vision.  Maybe I’ll convince that the “pre-staging” project can count.  Somewhere in there, though, is the upstairs spare bedroom.  It’s the last of the original rooms that hasn’t gotten its face lift.  But that’s not until next Winter.

More stuff to do

Well when I put in the trellis for the old trumpet vine that was growing on the side of the house I did not take in to account the 500 pound chunks of ice that slide off the roof.  So my trellis has taken a beating over the lasts three years.  I need to add in some more supports and double the cross members.  Another $100 in pressure treated wood and at least one day maybe two.  Definitely going to wait on this one until it warms up.  No super rush on this,  I figure another big snow storm will be the death of the left side.  The trumpet vine is ancient.  We are guessing, but at least 40-50 years old.  It looks great in full bloom when you are looking out the dining room window.

So I have started to gather facts and am brainstorming the new bridge.  The fact that we need one is a foregone conclusion.  We had to submit a picture of our new siding to the insurance company early last year, so we just used one we had laying around.  They called back immediately and asked if there was another way to get to the house or was that bridge the only access.  I reassured them that we had a second bridge (worse than the one pictured) or we could drive through the field and walk in our side yard gate (doable in a pickup). So it was on the list to be fixed but these last two Winters have just escalated the damage.  I suspect the daily use is exposing the rot and disrepair that has been there for years.

 Annmarie found a nice arched bridge design made out of wood.  I want something that will last 50 years so we don’t have to redo the bridge when we are in our 70s.  So that pretty much leaves us with a culvert and gravel walkway.  I wanted to put in a 8 foot culvert last year for volume in case the back creek diverts (it did three years ago because the creek was allowed to dam up with tumbleweeds).  I have since decided that a 6 foot culvert would work.  I decided that some actual measurements might be in order.  The bridge is 34 feet long when only measuring the wooden portion.  It is four feet wide.  Now it is only 6 feet to the water surface from the walking surface of the bridge.  It is 6.5 feet to the creek bottom.  Obviously, that 6 foot culvert I want to use is not going to work.  We want to put used bricks down like pavers to use as a walking surface.  We are going to have cedar posts about every 6 feet with hog wire panels between them.  I know it doesn’t sound very pretty when I say it that way.  But, we saw quite a few of these fences when Annmarie was living in Bellingham and they look good.  I am going to put in a 10 foot long, 4 foot high culvert.  I will ramp the gravel (using compactor) up to 8 feet at the top.  The path that you walk across will be six feet wide (two feet wider than it is now).  I am even thinking about removing 2 feet of the chain link fence and adding a new gate.  But that will be the last thing I do after the bridge is finished.  Pricing culvert is the next step.  As an added bonus, there used to be a bridge in the barn lot.  The ramps are both in place and I am going to install a piece of culvert there also and back fill it in with gravel.  That way we don’t have to keep driving through the water to get to the other side.

I am going to add one more outside light next to the yard fence on the far corner of the bridge.  The lights come on automatically when it gets dark so you can find your way to the front door.

Thoughtful day

I had every intention of an easy day today.  I picked up a premium shift at work yesterday so didn’t get home until this morning.  It was a long and stressful day.  I didn’t think that it had effected me much till I went outside to do a little work.  I went out to thin out the roosters.  Sarah is the main chicken wrangler and she was busy elsewhere.   So I had to do it.  Even with them in the coop it is not easy and all those chickens together just getting agitated as I attempt to grab a hold of a rooster who then starts squawking incessantly until silenced.  I finally managed to get six extras leaving 2 roosters alive, unfortunately when I went back outside later with Sarah she pointed out a third rooster.  Maybe it is a rooster, the color is right but the tail is mighty small.  Sarah thinks it is because everyone was picking on that bird.  A couple of weeks will prove one of us right.  A couple of the hens have started laying eggs in the wood shed again.  Just one more place to check for eggs.  A friend of ours made some wooden eggs for the chicken coop laying boxes.  I finally found them today in a bag stashed by our child.  I have them by the front door so I can take them out to the coop tomorrow.  I am hoping to entice the wood shed hens back to the coop.

I needed to go up on the hillside with our pickup.  The first problem with that is it has been about six weeks since I have started the pickup.  Yep, it didn’t want to turn over.  I crossed my fingers and tried again.  Holding the starter for 15 seconds before the engine finally caught and took off.  This meant I needed to go on a small drive to recharge the battery.  The pickup kept dying every time I let off the gas.  Killed it 4 times before I got to the end of the driveway.  So I drove it about 8 miles and then decided to use the field entrance at the top of the hill.  It is very wet and muddy here and I didn’t want to make the ruts in the barn lot any worse than they already are (the rancher leasing the fields feeds every day and the rut just keeps getting deeper.  This necessitated me cleaning the weeds out of the barb wire gate.  Up on top of the hillside I saw a band of mule deer (around 20 animals) and a rarity for us I saw two chuckars.  We are a little on the small hillside order for the chuckars but I do spot them occasionally.  It had been over a year since I had seen any on the farm.  I passed a large pile of old rotten wood .  I cleaned out the bed of the pickup (leftover hay and sheep poop) while I was at the bone yard.

Back hillside where we are growing the rocks for our front bridge project.

On the way back down I stopped at the pile of rotten wood and spent a whole hour tossing the pile back together as it had been spread out over the last 30 years!!  I need to put some flame to that pile.  I noticed two more piles down below that need to be burnt also.  Since, I have decided to redo the bridge I need rocks, lots of large rocks (which we have in spades on the back hillside).  I want to face both sides of the bridge with large field rocks.  So I stopped and pitched a pile of rocks in to the back of the pickup.  I did not fill the back as the rocks got very heavy quickly, almost exponentially heavy the more I threw into the back of the truck.
 On the drive up the driveway I spotted three more piles of scraps and twigs/tree branches that need to be burned.  I emptied out the pickup in my “rock pile” area and went inside to get the child to go do her outside chores.

The creation of the Bridge rock pile.

We ended up enticing the sheep into a pen so we could catch the two little male babies so I could rubber band their testicles (castrate).  I tried with the littler boy first.  I could get one testicle in but the second one kept falling out and hiding in the belly.  I tried poking the belly to get it to pop out.  No such luck.  In the end I just let him go.  So onto the older baby, which went much better.  More to hold onto and much easier to tease both testicles through the rubber band and then it was done.  He laid on the ground for about twenty seconds then ran over to his mama.  The rubber band is tiny and thick , there is a special four prong pair of pliers that stretch the rubber band out so you can slip it over the scrotum.  So I will get the other baby in a week or two when things are bigger.

You never no what life is going to throw at you.  So take it day by day and cherish those days as if they were your last.

Here are the youngest twins.  The brown one on the right is the one I couldn’t castrate yet.  The four littler sheep at
at the top of the screen are some of our girls we purchased.  They are getting nice and fat.   Hard to believe
it is beginning of February in Eastern Oregon looking at this picture.