Farm 0, Predators 1

Sarah came home from school this week and found a dead hen chicken on our front porch.  Zeke was laying on the porch watching the chicken.  The cats were trying to eat it.  Something had ripped out a huge chunk of its breast.  We figure Zeke found it and brought it back to the porch (he is always dragging unwanted stuff to the front porch).  We checked Zeke all over for blood and didn’t find any on him.  We still think it is an unwanted predator, so yesterday I purchased some 58 grain varmit bullets for a .243.  When they get here I will get Sarah to reload them and then I am going to have to take some time to go kill some coyotes.  I saw three coyotes last week during daylight hours on our back hillside. 

Well our front screen door finally fell apart.  The hinges were literally torn apart over the last four years by the wind.  I had to take it down today as it would no longer close.  I am going to use the two windows in the screen for the barn.  I also managed to wire in the back porch light today.  Near freezing temperatures do not make for an easy wiring job.  My poor fingers were numb and aching by the time I got it working.  Should have done it last summer.

We are on the lookout for a flat bed trailer, 16 feet long, dual axle with a 2 inch hitch, and pockets for 2×4 stakes so I can build racks.  We can get a couple ton of hay on it and then with racks I can haul the sheep to sale.  We realize that the sale is at least next year, but we currently have 21 ewes and our goal is around 30-35.  With them having twins every 8 months and us selling them around the 10-12 month mark, we could have over a 100 at a time easily.   I just don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for a trailer.  So the feelers are out and I am watching craigslist all the time, so far no real good deals. 

Lamb Update

Good news – when I went out for the second time this morning, the lamb was up and eating and looking much stronger than when I was out first thing.  I think he’s (generic pronoun) going to make it just fine.  This is an experienced ewe who is a very attentive mother.  We’ll let them settle in for a few days and then do a gender check.  This, however, is the tiniest lamb we’ve had.  I know we keep saying that, but this time I mean it.  The span between his front and back legs is only as long as my hand is wide, about 4 inches.  As a frame of reference, the slats in the photo are a standard pallet stood on edge.  He’s not even as tall as the second slat up.  Last night he kept getting between the layers of the back pallet because the bottom slat on that one is missing, and he’d get in there, and then get his head up because he was looking for food and couldn’t figure out to put his head level with his shoulders so he could come out.  But, he’s much more stable on his feet today, so I’m hopeful.  For now, momma and baby are confined to the barn until he gets bigger.

On a side note – the rest of the sheep are out on the back hillside.  Remember those rail road ties that Steve burned earlier?  Each and every one of them that was afire is no longer connected to the ground.  They essentially burned off at ground level and are now hanging from the wire.  Since the railroad ties are supposed to provide the stability to keep the fence tight, that arrangement does not make for a sheep-secure fence.  He’s planning to repair fence this week.

Mixed News

One of our ewes delivered this evening.  I went out as soon as Sarah & I got home from her girls’ afternoon that was her choice for celebrating her 16th birthday (manicures, movie, and dinner with a friend), and found one very new lamb.  And two others who were stillborn.  Sarah had been saying for quite a while that she thought this ewe was carrying triplets.  It turns out that she was right, but only one lived.  I think this may be a lesson in genetics.  I’d have to look back to make sure, but his may be Lucky’s mother.  Who may also have been related to his father.  Clearly Lucky is not going to be able to stay on another year, but we already knew that.  I’m still not really sure about this lamb that is living now.  It was new enough that it hadn’t yet stood up when I was out there.  I’m going to take a bottle out with me when I go back out to check on it in a few minutes. 

Floor in progress

I have actually started to sand the floor in the spare room.   I only had 80 grit paper left over and it fills very fast with paint when I do the painted sections (yes, I did already strip the paint once).  I can only do about 3 square feet with a single piece of 80 grit.  I had one piece of 50 grit left and did almost five times as much with it, so I will be stopping and picking up some 50 grit and I am out of 120 grit also.  I don’t go any finer than 120 on the floor, I want it to be rustic and with the old holes, stains and nails it is rustic.  The sander got away from me a couple of times yesterday.  I had forgotten how hard it was to sand, and how many back muscles it took. 

We decided to lock the sheep out of the ram pasture for a couple of weeks.  We are hoping to let it grow out and then let them in.  It helps that they have to pass through the ram pasture to get to the orchard and they have gotten out of the orchard twice in the last week.  I cannot figure out where.  There is a little loose fence up near the house that may be the cause.  One more thing to add to the list. 

The horses have managed to create quit the pile of manure near the barn this winter, so pretty quick I am going to have to fire up the tractor and move the pile.  I need to move the entire sheep poo pile away from the barn before I can get started on the barn any way.  Don’t forget, I still need to finish my winter burning of the weeds.  It did rain this last weekend, but I am going to have to just mark out the next rainy day as a burn day no matter what is on the agenda for that day. 

The chickens have started to lay more eggs.  This is a good thing.  Only problem is they are starting to lay out in the barn again.  I found 8 eggs this morning in a nest of straw.  I picked up the eggs and stuffed them in my coat pocket then tossed all the loose straw out into the sheep pen so there is no place for them to lay.  They need to lay in the coop!  I had finished feeding the animals and was coming out to talk to Annmarie, she was headed to work, and had to stop her from giving me a hug due to the eggs.  When I went inside to empty my pockets one of the eggs had cracked and leaked all over my pocket and good wool gloves.  I had to wash out my glove and pocket.  Normally, this would not be a big deal, but I had taken the children to school and had my good coat on.  Our second rooster died sometime this week before I could put him out of his misery.  The chickens finished him off and we cannot find the body.  Literally, hen pecked to death.  Now mind you the other rooster is the one who drew first blood, but the hens did him in. 

There are still at least four ewes that have not had their babies yet.  Two of them look like they could pop at any moment.  So we still have more babies cooking.  We are going to end up with some extra hay.  At least 2 ton maybe more.  So I will probably plan on buying another 10 ton and then seeing how it goes.  We will have 23 ewes next winter and all of them will be pregnant.  If 20 of them throw twins we are going to multiply quickly.  I am going to have to look into the livestock sale by next spring. 

Sheep babies tagged

Sarah and I went out on Friday and tagged/banded babies.  We only had one boy to inflict the rubber band torture on and the rest were girls who only get an ear tag. We had six babies to catch.  So we took Zeke with us and herded the sheep into the barn, shutting the outside main gate so the sheep could go between the barn and the holding pen.  The initial idea was to sort them in the holding pen, but Zeke got rolled again and didn’t want to get in there.  So we chased the sheep into the barn and Sarah caught babies.  Zeke chased the sheep back into the barn every time they tried to sneak out.  We are still going in chronological order of age with the tag numbers.  It just makes it easier to sort the sheep by age if we keep doing it that way.  Our only baby boy was tagged #10, so we will have 7 boys to sell this year.  They will almost pay for the hay this next winter.  In 2013 we might actually break even on the sheep!

The spare bedroom is emptied and ready for me to start in on the floor.  I just need to strip the paint around the edges and I can start sanding.  This project is holding me back from working on the barn so I need to get it done.  The weather is so nice I could already be working on the barn.  I am starting to get fixated on the barn project.  Not even sure where I should start.  First thing I am going to do is walk around with the camera and take pictures of the whole thing before I do anything. It has that chunk of roof that got blown over still on the roof, but it is holding down the leading edge of the surviving roof so I am reluctant to move it until the new roof is on, but I may be able to salvage some of the lumber from it for the repair.  Just going to have to crawl up on the roof and look and see if any of the main supports are still intact.  Haven’t ever done that.  The hay turbinators are going to come down and I want to mount them horizontally on the barn ends as owl nests.  Annmarie is shooting down my plan as I type this.  She wants me to cut a hole in the ends of the barn and mount the metal tubes inside the barn.  Just mounting the owl landing board outside.  It makes it very neat and tidy and aesthetically pleasing, adding about 50% more work for me!  So of course this is how it will happen.

We did our taxes yesterday.  Annmarie does them, but I pay the day to day bills and do the filing, so I have to be present for the “TAX DAY”.  Always much grousing about taxes and how I file the needed documents.  I had most of them readily available but did have to dig around for a few.  I should probably use an expanding folder for the farm so I can sort the receipts as I go, I had them spread all over the chair and myself trying to categorize them.  We delved into the small business side and used our “Stewart Creek Somethings” business to write off farm expenses.  There was some tax credit incentive for small businesses to purchase capital items (one time kinda thing) that let us claim the whole value of the tractor in one year.  That gained us another $4000, so in reality the tractor only cost us around $16k, the thing just gets cheaper and cheaper!  Not bad for a tool that I will never have to replace.  It lives in a barn all by itself with all its implements.  I am going to make a better storage place for the implements and maybe even eventually fix the door so that I don’t have to lower the roll bar every time I need to park the tractor.  We are going to get enough money back that I will be able to purchase all the needed items for the barn remodel.  So as soon as our return comes in I can start ordering lumber and some gravel.  Once I get the barn leveled then I can worry about where to go next.  Most likely the tack room will be the next logical progression as I have to dig out a foot of grain and need a door to get at said grain.