Almost done fencing, Farm 8, Predators 22

Here is the dip that I smoothed out and filled in.

Well another day on my own.  Mr. President had a prior engagement that lasted all weekend.  It was a beautiful day.  I fenced almost entirely in a T-shirt and pants only.  Four hours into it, I realized that I was actually enjoying myself.  It is very relaxing.  Hard work but simple and you can see progress.  Not like my real job at all.  I spent the next couple of hours finishing up the fence and even cut in the new gate for the property lessee. Now they won’t have to drive through the barn lot and make huge ruts in the winter and spring.  I had to dig around a while to find the fencing hinges I had purchased three months ago but I did find them, eventually. 

Fence to be, you can see it on the ground.

I was enjoying myself until I saw the sheep out by the vehicles.  I thought they had found a new hole to crawl out.  But it was the lead ewe who had opened our gate.  It was closed but not clipped and she managed to get it open.  Then I noticed Mika (grey horse) was out and Hogs (other horse) was running up and down the fence line frantically.  I went over and saw that Mika had jumped the fence and taken a header on the hillside.  So I spent another 45 minutes fixing the damage and adding another row of smooth wire 10 inches higher than the last height. 

Completed fence (almost just needs metal stays twisted on).

More completed fence minus stays

Annmarie came out when she noticed the horses out of the orchard just before dark (I was picking some winter pears off the tree, which are still good and not quite perfectly ripe yet!).  It turns out that Mika scraped up both front legs so she walked them to the barn and I helped hold Mika while she doctored and wrapped the front left leg.  I had reopened the front gate because the sheep were trying to go back in it.  It was getting dark so I gathered eggs and locked up the chickens.  We still have at least two hens that are living outside the coop somewhere.  They may stay safe for a few more weeks with the raccoon gone.  I updated the count, still not very much in our favor this year. 

I have to install three gates tomorrow and the horses can be turned loose in the barn lot.  We closed up the orchard so the sheep and horses cannot get in there.  We are hoping the weather holds out for another 2-3 weeks and the orchard can snap back and grow another couple of inches.  It would have been amazing if we could have had the irrigation going this year.  One of the two major summer projects for next year.  Fixing the barn and getting the irrigation up and going.

This was my biggest fence repair, the price you pay for recycling old fencing.

Old blacksmith shop, door wall lifted and ready for scavenging of door parts.

This is where Mika jumped over the fence.

I pulled all the weeds and grass on the hillside so the horses can see that the fence is really tall.  I also re-tightened the top three wires and added a fourth. I used the magical tractor to lift the old wall of the blacksmith shop.  I wanted to scavenge the door hinges and locking mechanism.  Doom and I tried to lift this by hand a couple of years ago and could not do it.  It was too heavy.  Not for the amazing tractor. 

Fencing again hopefully will finish soon

I fenced today all alone.  My help had to do other things so I was at it all alone.  There is a price to be had for reusing old fencing.  It has holes and needs to be patched, it comes in too short lengths and has to be spliced together.  On the upside we did save 75% on the fencing costs.  I finished the L side completely.  I may have to build another rock jack to hold the fence down in the low dip.  I stretched it pretty tight and I am afraid it may pull up the metal posts.  So now I need to build another jack.  The long side has half the woven wire standing up already.  I may very well get all the fence up tomorrow even if I do it alone.  The only problem is installing the three gates.  I will need help with that.  I will have to work on the fencing again on Monday.  I am crossing my fingers for a completion date of Monday. 

I had to run in to Pendleton to get some T-post clips (these are used to hold the fence against the metal posts).  I went into PGG and asked the checkout gal for T-post clips, she called someone and this young gentleman came out.  I asked him if the clips came in packages of 25?  He said they did, so I asked for 30.  He gave me this weird look and went off to the store room.  I wandered the store and kept trying to figure out why he had given me “the look”.  It took him a few minutes and out he came with 30 clips.  A single bag of 25 and 5 loose clips!  I laughed at him and said I need to do “some real fencing” and I wanted “30 bags” of clips.  He looked chagrined and went back and got a large bag full of clips.  I chuckled all the way to the pickup. 

Victory!!

Yes, I am once again posting at 3:47 am. But this time, it’s because I got the rotten little thieving bugger.

Steve woke up to open windows at 1:30 this morning because it had gotten too warm in our room. I heard chittering, so he went out to check. After a fruitless search, he returned to bed disappointed and we went back to sleep. At 3:40, we one again heard the death-squawks of a stupid chicken. There were more of them not going in the coop than we had thought. This time, we actually did dash into action, with no discussion whatsoever, and out we went. Steve had the shotgun, and I was reaching for my 30-30 when I remembered that I had neglected to load it after I unloaded it following my patrol last night. So I was back to the 22, since it was the only other rifle handy. I actually managed to find a good flashlight – a tiny little AA mag lite that was hiding in a glove drawer – because all of the dim flashlights have been moved form their usual locations.

We did our patrols around the house and coop without seeing anything. Yesterday I had seen a chicken foot and feathers under the barn, so as a shot in the dark (literally) I passed my good strong light over the crawl space under the barn, and happen to catch eyes flashing red in the light. I called Steve over, but by the time he got there, the eyes had gone up and into the barn. I was considering our options when I saw the dang things up off the floor, above the old wool area. I was actually seeing them through the big gaping hole in the barn roof. I pointed the eyes out to Steve, and this time he managed to get his eyes on the too. He traded me weapons and took a shooting stance. The little bugger dropped out of site. Steve relaxed moved forward to get a rest. The bugger popped back up again. Now Steve couldn’t see the eyes. He came back to me, and saw the eyes. Took his stance. and the eyes went out. This time he held his stance, and the eyes came back on. He couldn’t see them. We did this for a while, with me saying, “There they are! and him replying, “Where?”

Finally, I convinced him to give me the rifle and handed him the flashlights. The eyes moved a bit during this exchange, and I was afraid the stupid bugger had finally lost interest, but then they came back on. I was ready. I got the scope on him (I usually detest scopes, I will admit just this one it helped because I could see more than just two glowing eyes), and pulled the trigger. The rifle discharged, and then we heard a large thump followed by a lot of random thumps – death throws. Steve looked at me with what I’m sure was amazement (I wasn’t looking at him, so I can’t say for certain) and said with some shock in his voice, “You got it!” I responded with, “Yeah – I got it. I’m a good shot.” He seems to periodically forget that fact. It was gratifying to remind him with something more useful to be shooting than a target. And it was a heck of a good shot, after all. We were in the old ram pasture, by the chicken coop, and the critter was in the barn – at the upper end below the old feed chute.

Locations of all interested parties

We went to see what I had gotten. It might have been a cat after all.  The horses met us at their corner of the other end of the barn and were looking at us as if to say, “What are you doing out here at this time of night?”  They followed us until we went into sheep area (I installed a board so they can’t go in but the sheep can).  We went through the sheep and up into the main area of the barn.  Sure enough, there was the dead raccoon in one of the old feed troughs that Steve had stacked in front of the old wool bin.  I head shot him!  Steve again expressed his wonder (yes, I’m gloating a little.  I’m almost done).  And we returned to the house.  I, of course cannot sleep.  Steve is already back in bed and is sound asleep.  I’ll take a nap later.  For now, the chickens are again safe.  Even then ones that are too stupid to go roost in the nice safe coop.  At least until another raccoon comes through.

One fewer stupid chickens

The chicken thief came through again last night. I was awakened by the death-squawks of one of the last of Steve’s chickens that were too stupid to go inside when it got dark. I looked at the clock – 3:40am. I did my wifely duty and got out of bed (Steve was of course at work) to do a night-time patrol. I didn’t find anything. This morning, however, I see a pile of feathers on the other side of the tractor from the chicken coop. Steve had parked both the pickup and the tractor next to the coop for easy access when this weekend, and there, right in front of my nose, was a pile of feathers. I was so focused on the coop when I went out the gate that I didn’t even look over there. Stupid chicken must have roosted on the tractor for the night. The carcass was gone, which suggests that it might be a female dragging it back to her kids. Raccoons are the worst. They are sooooo hard to get rid of. Tonight, we’re setting up the live trap and baiting it with the horses’ sweetened grain mix. Hopefully the cats won’t like the grain mix, but the raccoon should think it smells great. Wish us luck.

Yesterday afternoon, I had to move the hay truck. It had been parked next to the barn. Again, for easy access this weekend when the unloading was scheduled to take place. When I went out to move the horses (orchard to barn for evening feeding), I noticed Sarah standing at the gate to the barnlot and yelling. I asked her what she was doing, and she pointed out to me that the pasture renter’s cows had discovered the hay. They had pulled one bale down and broken it open. Once it was gone, the couldn’t reach any more, so they just stared eating the lower level of bales from the ends in. They ate one almost half or one bale and probably 1/3 of two more bales. So, I moved the beast of a truck. Yes, I got it started. No, it wasn’t easy. Yes, it steered – sort of. No, I didn’t run over anything, although that was due more to prior planning than to functioning brakes. I was mindful of Steve’s ruminations over the brakes on the truck and moved real slow and coasted it into it’s current parking spot. The thing steers like a drunken tank so I’m not sure how Steve’s going to get it out – I pretty much just steered a great big circle, but I’m sure he’ll manage. He’s coming to an understanding with the truck, after all.

Right now, he’s out working on the fence with Mr. President. He’s hoping they will be able to finish this weekend. Since the hard part is done (the posts are all driven), he might even be right. Pulling the wire actually doesn’t take all that long. Although it kind of looks like rain out there, so maybe not. Time will tell.

Farm 7, Predators 22

I did an official count tonight on the chickens and there are 43 chickens, two of those are roosters.  Not all are mature yet so I only collected 9 eggs tonight.  I did want the record to show again that my shotgun blast was only 8 inches away from the raccoon with an overhead shot over a board and in the dark.  I didn’t get the promised pictures.  Instead, Mr. Vice-President and myself went out and worked on the fence.  He drove in all the metal posts while I used the tractor to drag the ditch sides down so that a pickup could be drive through the ditch without the bumper dragging on one side.  We did have to build one rock jack at the base of a rock outcropping.  Luckily, there used to be one nearby that had fallen apart so we just scavenged the pieces from it and pounded in some new nails, used some old barbed wire to support the wooden pieces and instant rock jack.  Mr. Vice-President is going to be gone for a couple of days but when he gets back he will be filling the rock jack full of rocks!

On a more official note there is a new tractor rule.  Rule #1, always, 100% of the time wear the seat belt that is provided.  I got bucked off the tractor today and the only thing that saved me from the ground was the control lever for the bucket.  The control lever was not designed to keep a 155# from hitting the ground.  I will now have to take it off and straighten it out on the vice.  The roll bar does me no good if I run over myself.

The last load of hay is parked next to the barn and ready to be unloaded, Mr. Vice-President is all over this upon his return.  We gathered all the tools and wire necessary to secure the chicken coop from animals crawling under it.  Mr. Vice-President rolled the rocks away and started digging the trench.

I also filled in the hole in the front yard from the water line repair today.  A lot of little things that needed to be done.  The goal is to have the fence up and secure by Sunday!  I also want to burn the scrap wood pile.  One of the fence challenges is that four gates have to be installed also.  They take time.  I will attempt pictures on Friday.  Annmarie has already informed me that if the chickens raise a fuss tonight I am to leap out of bed and run outside immediately to dispatch the predator.  I forgot to grab the carcass this morning as I was rushing out of the house.  The cats and chickens at the whole thing.  Only some loose feathers this afternoon.

farm 7, predators lots

I will have to do a recount tonight just to figure out how many chickens we have lost to predators this year, it is going to be over 24.  They are decimating my birds.  Annmarie woke me up in the middle of the night again to the sound of chickens squawking.  I did not want to get out of bed.  The bed was warm and it was still dark.  After some “discussion” and a final blood curdling squawk from one of the chickens I leaped to action (after I found my glasses).  Due to paranoia reasons I no longer take the 22 out at night, so I grabbed the shotgun and a truly crappy $0.99 flashlight (my good ones keep disappearing, must be the flashlight gremlins, they are trading with the sock gremlins).  I hold the flashlight in my left hand on the pump mechanism.  I pumped a round in the chamber and hustled over to the chain link gate shining a crappy weak light into the coop yard.  A black blur ran toward the back of the coop and I ran after it.  The sheep were on the backside of the coop yard earlier in the night but luckily they had moved so I didn’t have to run through them.  I heard some scrambling so I knew some thing was crawling up the 4×4 post.  I shined the light and there was a big raccoon sitting on top of the fence.  I was on the outer corner, but when I aimed the shotgun the barrel was pointing toward the old house and our house.  I had to move four feet to the left, but now I had to raise the shotgun up high to get over the chicken fence I had just stepped behind to change angles.  I shot, damn flashlight fell on the ground, I heard  the culprit jump down (didn’t sound like a belly flop) so I stepped right and blindly shot at the ground in the approximate area.  There is a reason I don’t let the dogs come out with me at night.  I found the flashlight (still on) and picked it up off the ground.  NO dead raccoon.  I shined it up to the spot it was sitting on the fence and there is a 1 inch x 4 inch wide chunk of wood missing from the 2×4 the raccoon was sitting on.  Unfortunately, it is eight inches to the right of where it should have been.  I missed.  I met Annmarie on the way back to the house.  We had a discussion about how she only hears the chickens when I am home.  I will run out and throw the dead stupid chicken (not supposed to roost in the yard) into a live trap today and tonight I will set it up and see if the raccoon comes back. 

Early Morning Happenings

Yes, it is 4:30am. No, that is not my usual time to be awake and sitting in front of the computer. I was (once again) awoken by the sounds of squawking from the chickens. This is always a bad thing after dark. I nudged Steve, and he “discussed” with me the value of checking on the chickens. I “discussed” back and we came to the agreement that if he wanted to have chickens he needed to get out there and see what he could see. So, he fumbled around for his glasses and threw on the his robe while I got dressed (my robe is in the wash). As I was grabbing the 30-30 (22’s are not lethal enough), I heard the shotgun discharge twice. I headed out, and Steve informed me he had missed. Since I wanted more details, I asked him to tell me what had happened.

He went out last night to lock up the chickens, and had indeed latched the door on the coop proper – a good thing, as it turns out. What he found in the coop yard was a fairly large raccoon trying to open the sliding door to get into the chicken house. Now, this raccoon had apparently climbed over the (not currently electrified) chicken wire to get into the chicken yard and knew there were chickens behind that closed door. In truly annoying raccoon fashion, he set about trying to get into the buffet. Luckily, they are not quite advanced enough to be able to unhook the hook-and-eye latch. When he (generic he – gender is actually unknown) saw Steve, he ran around the back of the coop and climbed up onto one of the upper supports for the baby fort knox. Steve adjusted his angle so he wasn’t shooting at the house and took his shot. He missed. He claims he missed by only eight inches, but he is the only witness. Besides, the critter is still mobile, so how much he missed by is only a matter of his pride.

The good thing is that we now know what is killing our chickens. The bad thing is that we detest raccoons. They are too clever and are difficult to catch. We’ll do all the things we should. We’ll set out traps, and electrify the fence, and keep locking the door on the chicken house rather than just the much more convenient outer door on the yard. Hopefully the chickens will get smarter and stop sleeping out in the yard and we’ll either rid this earth of one more raccoon or he’ll move on to easier pickings. We did loose one more yard-sleeping chicken tonight. But we interrupted the critters dining, so maybe he won’t try again. Hope does spring eternal, after all.