Chicken killers are back

I am down one hen chicken.  I set up the live trap two days ago without any bait.  Today I went out to get eggs at dark.  I only found four eggs and was swearing up a blue streak about egg stealers while I was in the coop.  I was trying to figure out which cat was sneaking in and eating MY eggs.  On the way out of the chicken yard I shut the outer door of the chicken yard so the chickens will be forced to stay inside the coop yard to lay more eggs where they belong and to keep said egg suckers out of the coop.  I happened to look over at my live trap and there were feathers every where!  So I ran back in and counted the chickens, one less hen…
The worst part is the live trap was closed and there was no chicken body.  We had three kittens killed last week under a piece of equipment.  They had their faces chewed off.  The opening was only four inches off the ground. Annmarie thinks we may have a weasel.  My live trap will not catch a weasel.  If it is a weasel, I am going to have a very hard time catching or killing it.  This could become a nightmare.  Good thing I have the chicken butler or I may have started loosing chickens sooner.  I just need to check the live trap every day to make sure no chickens are trapped in it at bedtime.

Escape artists

Is there truly such a thing as the perfect fence?  I am seriously beginning to wonder.  I drove up to the house yesterday morning and there were the sheep out in the CRP!  They are not supposed to be there.  That is why I tightened the equipment fence so they could not go out there.  The only sheep that was not out in the CRP was the wild and crazy ewe.  After thinking about it, she never tries the fence and always stays within the proper boundaries.  How is it that the only ewe that obeys the fence restrictions is crazy?  I was in a time crunch so I opened the far gate and drove out to chase the sheep back in.  It was working until the dog came from the wrong direction and chased them back toward me.  So after calling the dog several choice names I got out of the pickup and herded the sheep around the corner toward the gate.  I was walking along the fence line and scared a wild turkey hen off of her nest.  She hung tight until I was about four feet away.  I never saw her until she jumped up.  I would have walked right by as the nest was tucked under tumbleweeds.  She had 10 big eggs in the nest.  Now I just chased the sheep out of the CRP about 3 weeks ago and she wasn’t there at that time.

As the sheep got to the equipment gate (5 strands of barb wire fence still standing upright) they proceeded to plunge directly through the fence en masse.  Totally ignoring the open gate 20 feet further down the fence line.  So now I am going to have to string up some woven wire.  So the lesson learned from this is barb wire is basically useless it is only good on top of woven wire to make the fence appear to be taller.  The woven wire only lets them get their head through then it stops them cold.  No amount of pushing and jumping works.  On a plus note all that going thru fences is removing their Winter coats quickly.

Crazy weather

This is truly an odd year, the weather is psychotic.  It rained something fierce yesterday.  So even had I wanted to go outside I could not have.  I was sore and tired with no real inclination to go outside so it suited me just fine.  As I look up into the mountains this morning I see fresh snow on the peaks just a few miles away.  Our back runoff creek is getting higher by the hour and is now brown with mud.  I told Annmarie yesterday that at the rate the grass is growing we would need a few hundred sheep for a month to eat it all down.  I am going to have to rent a tractor mower again this year to knock it all down. That is two times already this Summer I am going to need a tractor.  I really need our own tractor…

I did manage to take some nice pictures of the sunset last night.  The rain stopped just long enough to cooperate with my picture taking endeavors.

Stormy sunset

Pink clouds

Sunset

Rain runoff rising

Sprout man chilling like a villain!

Outside all day

Double rainbow.

Other end of the rainbow.  It was so close I couldn’t get the whole thing in one frame. 

I decided that I needed to catch up today.  So I went to town to get the boards necessary to fix our main entrance cattle guard rails.  I fired up the weed torch (propane torch with 4 foot flame) and cleaned up around the cattle guard then came in front of our house and burned winter weeds.  I also burned two slash piles.  I still have four more slash piles to burn, but they were not where I was working so they will have to wait.  I finally ran out of propane so I couldn’t finish burning.

 I did drive in the rest of the metal posts for the orchard.  Now I just need to rent a tractor with a post hole digger for one day.  I have 33 holes to dig for railroad ties.  It would take me all Summer long to dig those out by hand.  I need to be done with the fencing in a couple of weeks, three weeks maximum.  I also dug around and scrounged up all the metal posts I could find.  I found 44 posts and only needed 45.  I have 8 more posts that are in the ground and just need to be pulled up, so I will do that next week.  A handyman jack and short piece of chain pop the posts right out.

I was looking at the gate openings I marked for the new fence and I think the gates I want to use are wider than the openings I marked.  They may be 14-16 feet wide.  I am going to have to scrounge the three gates I want to use and prop them up in the openings so I have them right.  One of them has a pretty big bow in it.  I am going to lay it on the ground and jump up and down on it to straighten it out!

While I was dropping off my fencing tools in the old hen house I realized I needed to dig around the building.   Over the years the dirt has piled up next to the concrete and the dirt and weeds are starting to grow up into the siding.  So I dug an eight inch clearing all around the foundation about a foot wide.  That should keep the wood from eroding any further until I can get out there in a few years.

Of course, the weather did not comply and we had a big nasty storm come in.  The storm caused our outside automatic lights to come on it was so dark.  This also made my poultry butler shut the door to the coop.  I had to go outside and override the door so it would open and the chickens could enter.  The chickens were not too happy about being locked out.  It lightened up again so the door is back open now.  Go figure.  I should try and get some pictures of the red tailed hawk pair that are nesting on the farm.  I will try and remember at some point.    

I have two new plans.  I want to create a large waterfall and water feature in our front yard that draws water from the front creek and then lets the water run back into the creek.  It will be about 20 feet x 10 feet, pretty big with about a 12-16 foot rise.  I am thinking of at least two waterfalls maybe three.  My next idea is to create a small pond near the start of the spring.  I only want it to be a couple of feet deep.  I am going to create the pond at the old bridge opening.  This is fairly easy to do.  Not sure when I can sneak this project in.  The wife doesn’t know about it, so it will have to be a stealth project.  None of these until the fencing and front bridge are done.

Fencing is on again

I was wandering around the farm taking
fence pictures and noticed the moon
was out already, so I took a few pictures.

Well, I should have started fencing a month ago, but the weather is not committing to my time line.  Now if I was a multimillionaire I would not have to work full time and might have managed to squeeze in some work before now, but alas, that is not the case.

Sarah and I went out and marked all the new metal fence post, railroad tie post and gate positions for the three new sections of fence yesterday.  We even managed to put in eight metal posts.  Today the child thinks she is dying because her arms and back are aching (she is off light duty now after her four month illness, so she really is out of shape).  I explained to her that I hurt also, but I would be right back at it today.  Other wise nothing would ever get done.  I am not sure she appreciated the sentiment, but maybe in ten years she will understand it.  I am going to install two 12 foot gates and one 14 foot gate.

Machine shop trying to capture the moon. 

 I will reroute the drive in access to the upper pasture around the barn lot.  In the Winter we end up with huge ruts from the lessee driving through the lot.  So the new road will follow the CRP field and cut into the pasture above the barn lot.  There is already a road there just not a gate.  Once that is in place I can work on filling in the ruts and not having them return every year.

Some of the sheep are starting to smooth out by shedding their Winter coats.  In my reading I have noticed that animals can be bred for temperament.  I understand that to some degree, but until you see it in person it is hard to conceptualize.  If you look closely at this picture of our sheep you will see an adult ewe way in the background.  She is crazy, flighty and won’t ever let us get near her.  The lamb near her is her very first, now she is teaching that lamb to be just like her.  That is why it is not up with everyone else.  So she may have to go next year.  I don’t want a small group of wild outliers that are hard to work.

Upper pasture gate area.  In the distance, up in the tree,
you can see the red tailed hawk nest.  I had to make the gate
go in on the right side of the power pole.  The pole was
right were I wanted to locate the fence, but I didn’t figure the
power company would have any sympathy for my wants.
Upper pasture fence line, the fence turns left at the dirt colored line.
That line is the back creek bank, you just cannot see the water.

Sheep wanting some more attention.  See the crazy ewe way in the background with her lamb.  

The barn looking into the setting sun.  My favorite picture of the night.
Annmarie thinks the foreground ruins it.  I told her it just added
character, besides how many people know it is over 50 years
of sheep shit that got dug out last year?  See, character!

New access road to the upper pasture.  You can see where
the road is even though no one uses it any more.
Orchard fence, I had to jog the fence at the irrigation ditch, I could
not get across the ditch diagonally, so I had to make a straight line.
It means a couple more railroad ties in the ground. 

  

I am temporarily winning the battle

One day after it rained.  Luckily it didn’t rain this day. 

The sheep cannot get out of the ram pasture and barn lot now and are not real happy with this arrangement.  Even though, the area, they are trapped in has grass almost 10 inches high every where.  The grass truly is greener on the other side in their minds.  It is still raining all the time here so I have been having a hard time finding a couple of dry days to mow the lawn.  I managed to squeeze it in today, but it took an extra hour due to all the moisture in the grass.

Barn egg stash, these got recycled no
telling how old they were. 

Annmarie found an egg stash again in the old barn, one of the green egg layers was hiding in a corner under a bunch of tumble weeds and laying eggs.  I found 13 green eggs and a couple of random brown eggs three feet away.  I took all the tumble weeds back outside and piled some stuff in the nest, plus when I caught her on the nest I chased her out of the barn.  Hopefully, she will go back to laying in the chicken coop.  If not then I will have to lock the chickens in the chicken yard for a couple of days to help her forget about her barn nest.

We got our cattle guard welded back together.  It was very fast!  I just went and talked to the welder last week.  Luckily, he had another job out near here yesterday so he stopped by and fixed us up also.  It looked like the snow plow caught the support and sheared it off.  Now I have to put some new support boards up.  While I was talking to the repairman he mentioned that he heard we had sheep.  I said there will be two lambs for sale this Fall and he is welcome to come choose one.  He said he would come out!!  Very nice and I have one other person at work very interested.  The repairman owns a local metal fabricating shop that we drive by on our way home.  He has had several rolls of old sheep fencing there on occasion.  He informed me that he is the owner of the scrap metal yard now and he would sell me that wire for 25 cents/pound.  Far cheaper than I could buy new and it has lots of life left in it.  I told him I would take 1000 feet for starters.  That is going to save me a bunch of money on fencing!!

More clouds.  I liked them. 

I also need to burn and spray some weeds.  I will try and burn as much as I can then spray what is left over.  I am starting to think about marking the posts and railroad tie holes for the new fence also.  I think I will do that this weekend!!  I am starting to get closer.

Sheep are starting to shed their Winter wool.  The little brown one in the center of the picture is all done
and he looks like a goat!!  They thought we were going to give them a treat.  You can see our
shadows in the bottom left of the picture.  

The sheep are starting to look pretty ragged.  They are all shedding their Winter wool.  The goat look is coming around.

Sheep are sneaking out again

I came home Wednesday to find the sheep all over the farm.  They were in three different groups all separated by fences.  Annmarie had told me she would lock them up for me, so I knew they were not where they were supposed to be.  Instead of doing the things I had planned on my drive from work I went back to fencing.  I had three large holes, all on hillsides and near water.  So I spent the next three hours installing more fencing and tightening fencing that I had installed last year (for any future fencers out there, you need to wrap the wire around the pole a couple of times then wrap it back on the incoming wire and put ONE staple in that is it!!  No more.  I had to take out four staples on each one I had to re-tighten.  I was not taking into account the animal factor and their ability to loosen fence.)  Now mind you on the way home I stopped and got some really, really long rubber gloves.  One of the young ewes had miscarried and had some afterbirth hanging out and I thought I was going to have to go fishing.  I know, I am squeamish, but you really can get a few skin diseases from the sheep, hence the glove purchase.  Once Annmarie came home we caught the ewe in question and luckily for me, she had passed everything, no more hanging out stuff.  I will save the gloves as I am sure they will be needed at a later date.

I went outside to work on the rose bushes today.  The Winter was not kind to our roses.  All but one froze to the ground and one died.  the roses were so big I had to use the Sawzall to cut them down (that and I couldn’t find the loppers).  My large bush rose was almost four inches across at the base and it died to the ground.  I had a blooming tree in the corner of the yard that was sagging so I tried to prop it up today and it broke off at ground level.  It was dead and had rotted off, surprising since it was alive in the Fall.  I also cut down about 200 thistles out of our yard.  They are coming back with a vengeance this year.

Again, I could not find the sheep in the pasture so I figured I had another hole!!  So I spent another three hours fencing.  This time I worked on the gates (place panels to the gates so the sheep cannot jump between the bars) and added a panel gate to the exit of the loading chute.  I found one more spot on the main fence line and I nailed in a 2×8 to cover that section and used wire staples to attach the sheep wire to the 2×8.  I still have not seen the sheep.  I pulled a pine tree over to the burn pile with the pickup (forty foot tree) and spotted the sheep out in the CRP (of course since they are not supposed to be there).  If you were a sheep would you leave all that tall green grass to go out into the scraggly tall brown grass?  I wouldn’t, but apparently I would not make a good sheep.  So I herded the sheep back in to the main area of the farm and tightened the machine access gate, an old wire and pole gate.  I had to add a couple of fence posts to hold up the panel on the other side of the gate.  This is were I learned the value of twisting the barb wire and not putting in four staples.  I just had to unwrap the wire from itself once I used the fence tightener and just wrapped it back on itself.  NO staples at all.  This makes this very easy to do.

I am fairly certain that at this point the sheep, cannot in any way, get out of the ram pasture.  I do realize that this is a bold statement, but my arms are killing me and I am almost certain that the sheep cannot get out now. We will know in a few days.