Bridge Day 4, this is getting old fast…

Baby chicks growing up.  I will open the cardboard cover
next week and let them roam out into their play yard.  

Yep, I worked on the bridge again today.  We got to pour concrete today!  I was very happy to get the concrete poured.  The only problem was I did not realize how much concrete we were going to pour.  I had changed some dimensions after purchasing sackrette and did not recalculate how much concrete would actually be needed.  This did prove to be a problem.  On the plus side, we used the electric concrete mixer ($280, worth every penny!) I purchased at Home Depot.  It was the only thing that saved us.  We could not have mixed 4.5 cubic yards of concrete by hand (40-80# bags of sackrette).  I was amazed at the amount of concrete we used. I also figure that I saved 50% of the concrete cost by purchasing my own mixer and paying someone to help me over buying premixed and having it delivered.

Finished concrete, will pull the forms off next week (a full seven days Doom). 

We figured we better date our work for future generations.

This is our center posts with thread all inserted to attach
the pressure treated post between the beams.    Yes, I
do know the concrete is not beautiful.  Remember,
it will be UNDER the bridge. 

My concrete is not beautiful but it is very functional.  I had to leave after lunch to buy more concrete and left my helper to dig out that last post.  I came back an hour later and he tells me this post is worse than the other one (burning didn’t help, stupid steam put out fire).  He had dug down quite a bit and the pickup was in the front yard full of concrete so we hooked onto the post with a chain and jerked it out with the pickup.  It worked!  Saved us another few hours of battle with the post.  This post was not nearly as rotten as the other.
I will be all ready by the end of next week to build a bridge!  I saw our cedar all bundled up at the hardware store while I was picking up the concrete.  They are keeping it for us until we are ready.  Mighty nice of them.

On a positive note another raccoon died.  It was foolish enough to get trapped in the trap.  On a more negative note it was a small raccoon so that means there are several more to catch now.  This does bring the count up to Farm 5, Predators 15.

My labor saver, concrete mixer. 

I am so looking forward to work so I can rest and recover.  I need a day off.  I did manage to sneak up and take some pictures of the back creek.

Back runoff creek.  It is way slower now.  

Back runoff creek, trying to decide which picture I like best. 

Bridge day 3, plus new baby lamb!

New baby boy born last night.  He is a looker, too bad he is the wrong gender.

Today did start out with a pleasant step.  I had messaged the Chicken Butler guy last night after noticing my failed door.  This morning I had a message from him and he is going to send me a brand new replacement.  I offered to send the defective one back to him.  Great news.  Annmarie is sore and tired, her left foot is swollen (I am sure from kicking the raccoon in an attempt to dislodge it from her leg) and I made her stay in the TV room all day with her foot elevated.  I would like to say she took the forced inactivity gracefully, but that is not the case.
Sarah found another baby lamb today.  It is from one of the batch we picked up in December.  Which means she got pregnant within one month of arriving at our farm.  Oreo has been busy.  We listed Oreo on Craigslist and no one has called.  I am thinking he may be our dinner at the medieval feast next month.  I just need someone to help me butcher him on the Friday before.  Still thinking about this, I like it.
The baby lamb is another little boy.  That makes four boys this year.  Two will be ready this fall and the other two won’t be ready until Spring of next year.  He is very pretty.
I managed to catch a cat in our live trap last night.  No skunk or raccoon.  Sarah worked on chopping down the six foot thistles today.  She got halfway through them and will finish them this week.  We set up another live trap down at our inlaw’s house.  We are trying desperately to kill off all the predators.  On a plus note, Annmarie bought all the reloading supplies for the 30-30.  I don’t have time to do it, so we are sending Sarah to Grandpa’s house on Tuesday so he can teach her how to do it.  He has no fine motor skills left in his hands, but he has all the knowledge she will need and lots of patience for his granddaughter.  If that turns out well then I am going to have her load a few hundred 38 cal pistol rounds also.  I may even need some 30-06 rounds!  Definitely need some 357 rounds.  This is just snowballing.

Day 3 progress, doesn’t look much different than day 2!
Hard to believe we spent 8 hours on it.

The bridge is progressing.  I did not quite meet my goals today.  Some brainstorms are better than others.  Burning out the posts was a great idea.  Unfortunately, when doing this you need to be sure that you are not burning over water.  The steam came up and put the fire out.  I think it may have worked if we did not add the dirt to the top.  It did help as my helper had the stubborn post out in 30 minutes.  So we decided to light the other post on fire one more time.  I didn’t figure we could get to that post and even if we poured concrete it could be done last.  Since we did not manage to pour any concrete it was no loss.  It took a considerable amount of time to set the far concrete forms.  There is a fabulous crop of rocks on that hillside.  I could not drive a single stake into the ground.  It was painful.  We had to assemble the entire form, get the height right and then back fill with large rocks to hold it all in place.  We pinned the whole form in place, hopefully it stays.
We did get all the rebar in place in the other five forms.  I even made round pieces of rebar to go around the vertical rebar pieces in the tubes.  Had to beat them into shape with a 3# hammer in the vice.
My help was mouthing off and being lazy so I popped him in the nose and gave him a bloody nose! LOL.  He was straining to bend the rebar in the vice and got a bloody nose.  Spent the last two hours with a napkin stuffed up his left nostril and blood all over his gloves.  We didn’t even stop for lunch.  Neither one of us was hungry.  Of course by quitting time at 1815 I was starving.  So we are stopping for lunch tomorrow.  We did get the concrete mixer assembled just before quitting time.

Rebar in place and ready for concrete.

night patrol action after dark report

Annmarie is not feeling well, her leg is swollen and hurting, foot is very swollen from kicking raccoon.  She went to bed early and then called down to say she heard chittering outside our bedroom window (Sarah and I are watching the Dirty Harry anthology, #2 tonight).  So I weaponed up and did a patrol.  Lots of cats, I mean almost all our outside cats were together on the back porch.  Very unusual behavior for the cats.  The live trap is just outside our side fence baited with cat food.  I have smelt skunk both nights from that side so we are hoping to catch the skunk.  It was still set, no predator.  I swung by the chicken coop and the Damn Chicken Butler was wide open again!!  It is not working correctly.  There were new white feathers on the ground and one chicken outside the coop in the chicken yard resting on an outside roost.  I went into the coop but no predator.  So I locked up the whole chicken yard again.  I am not happy with the Chicken Butler people.  Not happy at all.  I was unable to count the chickens but am betting I lost another one.  I will count them in the morning.  This sucks.

Bridge day 2

Bridge day 2.  Still no concrete.

Well the bridge had a solid eight hours of labor today by two individuals.  No concrete was poured today.  Pouring concrete today was my goal, even though I still had to pull four posts out of the ground, install the concrete forms, bend and install the rebar, assemble the concrete mixer, and finally mix and pour the concrete.  Sounds ambitious for one day doesn’t it?  It was and as such did not happen.  Now there was one major snafu.  When we were pulling the railroad ties out of the ground with the redneck tractor (pickup) the two nearest the house broke off at the ground level.  They were that rotten.  I figured they would just come out with a little effort.  Three and a half hours later the 16 yr old still did not have it out.  I had helped a couple of times.  He was getting water out the center of the post but there was still a lot of solid post below ground.  It just would not come out.  So I went and bought two bags of charcoal.  Dumped one in each hole (we hadn’t even started on the second post so we just dug down and exposed it) lit them on fire, added a bunch of scrap wood and thirty minutes later dumped in a 50# bag of wood pellets in each hole and covered the holes with dirt!  Now as long as no one steps on those holes all will be good.  Tomorrow we will dig them out.  We did get two tubes placed and one footing form completed.  So the plan for day three is to finish the forms, install the rebar and assemble the concrete mixer.  If we get that done then Monday we can pour concrete and call it a weekend!

Bridge day 2 from road perspective. 

Bridge work begins

Bridge starting point

I drove home late last night to protect the wife from the big bad raccoon only to find out she had already shot it! This allowed me to get an early start on the bridge.  First trip to Home Depot to get the dreaded rebar.  Sorry Doom I didn’t know what “size 3” correlated to in the English measuring system (and of course the help at Home Depot didn’t know either) and since it is only a foot bridge I bought 3/8inch rebar.  I wasn’t sure I could form hoops by hand if I used 1/2inch.  While there I almost bought a laser level but talked myself out of it.  I did remember to pick up the glue for the beams we are going to make.  I managed to do all my errands and show up to the house just as my help arrived.

 I may have found a responsible hard working 16 year old male.  This is a rare specimen of mankind and very elusive.  He knew we were going to do some kind of bridge work.  So I gathered up some tools and told him to start ripping up the bridge.  He wanted more direction.  I told him to put the nails, screws and especially the lag bolts in a box I had set out.  When he started ripping up the floor first I did mention that he should start on the hand rails first.  He was a little dismayed at first, but he tore in and got the job done.

Bridge almost tore down.
New pathway to the house, from the outhouse down to the tree and
across the bottom of the picture to the gate.

 I had to fire up the new weed eater and clear a pathway from the driveway to our yard.  So I chopped down weeds, moved downed tree branches, fixed the propane bridge, made a couple of steps out of rocks and removed two old bird feeder holder and raked the whole path.  Once I had that done I helped finish tearing up the bridge and we loaded all the rotten wood (all of it) into the pickup and took it up on the hill to the one remaining burn pile I have not burned yet (will save this pile until the snow flies now).  We still have four railroad ties to rip out of the ground and demolition will be completed.

Four railroad ties left to remove.

Unfortunately, I learned that I am going to have to pour footings at each end of the bridge.  I was hoping to use what was there but there is no upright keeping the dirt from falling down and rotting out the pressure treated beams.  I have been working on a way to angle the footings so that I don’t have to cut a weird angle in to the bottom of my beam (this is what was done previously).  I have spent the last four hours coming up with a solution in my head, Annmarie pointed out an obvious water problem that I would have overlooked.  I have a cure for that now.
We went and had dinner then another trip to Home Depot was in order to pick up that laser level and more rebar for the footings.
Annmarie was getting ready for bed when we both smelled skunk.  I did a perimeter search armed with pistol and flashlight.  Saw four cats, two horses and a bunch of sheep but no skunk.  Sarah’s new job is going to be to weed eat all the weeds within fifty feet of our yard fence.  I need a clear lane of fire!  So she will be on starting tomorrow (tonight the ogre let her go to a friends house to stay the night).

An interesting life

Yesterday was an interesting day. Bear in mind that one of the most powerful gypsy curses is said to be, “May you lead an interesting life.” Yeah – yesterday was interesting like that. We’ll skip the fact that I had a migraine, because there is nothing interesting about those, but keep it in mind through the rest of this post. It just adds to it.

On the good news side, we have a new baby lamb. I let the sheep out of their small pasture in the morning, and discovered the addition. Momma was quite protective and I had a hard time getting a good photo, but here’s the best I managed. Last night when I locked them up again, I managed to catch the lamb napping, and checked gender. It’s a boy. He looks good and strong, and kept up with Momma and the rest of the flock very well yesterday. I’m sure he’s going to do just fine.

Now, to change the topic a bit. Did you know that the Pacific Northwest is considered to be essentially free of terrestrial rabies? Neither did I, until last night.

About 9:20 or so last night, the dog very politely rang the bell to go outside (We have trained our dogs to ring a bell on the door when they want to go outside. It cuts down on the noise and confusion), so I got up and let them out. The minute the door was open, Bailey tore down the porch, with Sprout hot on her heals. Now this is not too unusual. There is one cat in particular that Bailey dislikes, so I slip on my shoes and go outside to rescue the poor cat. As soon as I get out, however, I realize it was not a cat they were going after. It was a raccoon. And not your typical run when challenged raccoon either. This one had turned around and was fighting back at Bailey. Now, Bailey, being the chocolate lab coward that she is, turned tail and headed back to me. Great, wonderful. Sprout was still behind them, but at least he was trying to get a hold of the ‘coon. I was trying to keep Bailey out of the house, because the last thing I needed was a ‘coon inside. I was hollering for Sarah to get me a gun when the ‘coon let go of Bailey and grabbed hold of my leg. That was when the hollering degenerated to screaming like a girl. The damn thing was holding onto my left leg and looking up at me and growling. I was screaming and hollering and jumping around (and probably kicking too, from the way my foot feel). Sprout was trying to figure out how to help, and Bailey was still trying to get into the house. I managed to get the thing off my leg, although I have no idea how, and Sarah handed me the 22. I looked quick to make sure it was loaded. No clip. I got inside with Bailey (Sprout was out in the yard still), and got a clip. Back out I went. No ‘coon in sight. I figured it had gotten scared off by all the ruckus and called Sprout back in. We all came in and I realized I had blood on my pants. And my knee was starting to hurt. I looked down, and there was a hole ripped in my pants. I made it a little bigger (it was quick and the pants were already ruined anyway), and saw that I had two small punctures and a fairly deep rip in my leg.
I sent Steve a photo of it (the convenience of cell phones and unlimited messaging plans) and called him at work. He said that yes, I needed to go to the ER. I was kind of shaking at this point, so I called Mom to see if she could drive me. She said, “Of course.” so I made sure I had my insurance card and my ID and stepped out the door. The raccoon was at the far end of the porch growling at me. I came back in a grabbed the (now loaded) 22 and engaged in battle. I put 4 bullets into the dang thing and it still didn’t die. It did, however disappear from my sight. I was hurting and angry, but I wasn’t stupid, so I did not go searching for it in the dark. Instead, I kept my flashlight out and took the rifle with me to the car, and went to get Mom for the drive to the ER.
The check-in lady had never had to type, “Attacked by a raccoon” into the incident description before, and we were the subject of much conversation. Apparently this is not a regular occurrence. But, the doctor checked with infectious diseases, and was given the information that the Pacific Northwest is nearly free of rabies. The only wild animals that have tested positive for rabies in the last 10 years are bats and foxes. That fact, coupled with the fact that it was claws that got me and not teeth (remember it was looking up at me and growling while attached to my leg) saved me from the torture of a rabies vaccination regime. Just for information, the first dose has to be infused around the site of the bite. The three more doses are required at days 4, 7, and 21. And I’m told they hurt – a lot. But, at least I didn’t have to experience it first hand.
This morning, I’m sore and tired, and kind of angry. I was going to get on the horses this weekend, but given the state of my knee and foot, that’s not going to happen. So, I’m considering a more deadly addition to my arsenal. I need something bigger than a 22, but nicely precise so the scatter (like a shotgun) doesn’t take a bite out of the house. Remember, we were on the porch, and I was shooting parallel to the house wall. I’m open to suggestions. At this point, we’ve got a 357 magnum that Steve says we can load with 38’s to make it easier to shoot, but still more deadly than a 22. I suck with a handgun, but I know someone who can teach me to get better. I’d rather have a rifle somewhere between a 22 and 30-06. Like I said, I’m open to suggestions.
Today, I’m calling Fish and Wildlife to see if they know anyone nearby with ‘coon hounds. I’m thinking we may need to go hunting. In the meantime, no going out after dusk without a rifle and flashlight.

Farm 3, Predators 15

Well, I am losing ground quickly this year.  I lost another chicken last night, one of the leghorns.  We were getting ready for bed around 2230.  I was opening the bedroom windows wider (more cool air) and thought I smelled a skunk.  This necessitated a night time patrol before I could go to sleep (Annmarie just tells me to go so I don’t keep her awake).  I had worked on the chicken butler last evening and got it working again.  I had to re-position a micro switch so the door could operate.  So I knew the chicken butler was functional, but we had the clouds come in and cause it to get dark suddenly.  As I approached the coop the chicken door ramp was festooned with live birds camping out at the door.  I tried to toss them inside the coop through the door (after I opened it) but the hole is kinda small to toss a flapping bird through and the other hens kept trying to peck me.  After the third time getting pecked I gave up.  I did a search of the coop yard and found lots of loose white feathers.  On the way out I shut up the coop yard door.  

This morning I counted chickens again (kinda like counting coup) and found out I had lost another teenager, one of the leghorns is missing.  I know have five leghorns and 7 brahmas from my initial 18 chicks.  So now I have to purchase a timer so the butler will work when I deem necessary. 
I sprayed weeds all day yesterday.  This doesn’t seem like a strenuous activity but the mule was bucking all over the place and I had to stay inside.  It wears on the muscles.  I made a first pass through the orchard breaking ground through ten foot tall milkweeds and lost a spray nozzle.  After turning the spray boom off, tying the boom arms up in the air and installing the spray wand to the tank I made a second pass through the weed jungle.  My whole boom setup fell off the mule.  It took off one of the spring cotter pins, bent one of the holders and loosened another bolt.  So now I will need to re-install the boom next week.  I have a plan, just need some time to complete it.  On one of the later passes a fawn deer jumped up and ran just before getting run over.  I tried to get a good view but all I was graced with were flashes of brown running and jumping through the weed jungle.  I did make it to the far end of the upper pasture and found an old hay loader that attaches to a wheat truck and lifts the bales up to the bed height.  It is ancient but looks like it still works.  The only thing I could not find on it was a way to attach it to the truck.  I chased three more deer out of the upper pasture.  They were all does and they all circled back around, which tells me there is a baby hiding in the grass some where.  
Sarah started the weed eating process out front near the bridge.  We need to knock down the weeds so we can start tearing out the bridge.  My concrete expert tells me I have to use rebar and let the posts cure for a week before using them.  So I need to get that done so when my help arrives we can just dig in and start building.  Tearing out the bridge and pouring the posts is this weekends project.   
OH, and I ran over the dog yesterday.  She has been chasing the pickup when I am driving around the farm.  I had told the wife and child that it was just a matter of time before I ran over the dog.  We were driving into the CRP to pull the mule out of the fence (I had been driving along the fence line squishing down the tumbleweeds put the drop off between the fence and the field kept getting steeper and the two wheel drive mule got stuck next to the fence) when we heard a yelp.  The child started ranting until I stopped her and told her this was going to happen.  Luckily for the dog, it happened out in the field.  I ran over her head and she ended up with a split eyebrow.  Other than that it turned out great.  The dog is doing fine today.  Has a little bit of a limp in that front leg this morning when she first got out of bed.  I am hoping that she is cured of her pickup chasing now.  Will know this weekend. 
Sprout actually let the horses sniff him this morning.  He has been avoiding them since we got them.  Not sure why he decided they were not evil today.  Annmarie would like to teach him and the horses to ride on the horse with her.