Farm ramblings

Outside wall leveled.  It looks level to me.

The outside wall is all leveled.  I ended up placing two new pillars, fixing two more and redoing the entire left corner to sit on rocks and pressure treated shims (2×6).   I ended up with one pier in the middle off the ground a couple of inches.  There was such a bow in the beam that when I attempted to straighten it there were side effects.  I am going to leave it.  I figure given some time and usage the beam will straighten out eventually.  I am not going to plant grass in the back barn lot yet.  I want to get the windows and roof in first.  Otherwise, I would just be trampling the fragile new grass. 

Honey bees, I need the large lens, got stung standing three feet away. 

We have a honey bee hive in the front wall.  There is an enclosed space between the walls and one of the boards split down the middle creating a small opening.  I keep trying to figure out how to keep it in place and work around it without getting stung a 1000 times.  Jason, I hope you aren’t allergic to bees?  Annmarie came up with a great idea this morning.  I am going to make a bee tunnel and redirect them to come out near the roof line.  The timing is going to have to be critical as I don’t want to redirect them before I get the roof in place!  Now that we have a plan I can work on it. 

Dug out creek in back barn lot.

As an aside, I have been working on the front creek.  Mostly when I got tired of digging under the barn.  It had filled with cow poop and widened drastically.  I just dug a new channel and tossed all the extras to the sides to help stabilize them.  There is an actual gravel bottom, not just mud!  I will plant the sides again so they firm themselves up.  The poop is starting to dry out now that water is not trickling over the top of it.  If you look closely at the part of the creek I have not dug out yet you can see what I mean.  I locked the sheep in the barn lot yesterday hoping they would eat down some of the green in the creek.  They found the hole in the fence next to the barn and have disappeared from their appointed location, go figure.

Other side of the bridge that has not been fixed.

Barn Leveling started.

Digging completed.  Pretty obvious it needs leveling.

I am dog tired.  It has been a long weekend of manual labor.  I worked on leveling the barn yesterday.  I figured it would take me a couple of weeks to finish.  I had planned on going out today and finishing up the last five blocks.  It is raining and I am very sore, who knows, I may still make it outside.  Not feeling particularly motivated.  The whole barn needs to be dug out.  If I can get that done, eventually, then I will expect it to last for another 100 years with a bare minimum of maintenance.  The plan whenever I do a project is for it to last at least 40 years.  I don’t want to redo it when I am 70 years old.  I figure I will be dead before I am 85 so that covers the lifespan.  In reality that means I am 50% of the way into my life.  Odd when you think of it that way.  So much to learn.  I am continually learning about the farm and animals.  Never knew that learning to be self sufficient and getting the farm whipped back into shape would become my joys.  I do truly enjoy it, even when it is back braking manual labor. 

This is the before leveling shot.  Yes for all you naysayers, I am going to fix this barn up to 100% useable.  The low front left corner is pretty obvious.

The barn does look a little worn when you look at the two worst sides.  I am going to add some windows for light.  Natural lighting is one of the things that the barn was seriously lacking.  I have several windows saved and ready for installation.  Not sure if I can keep all the window openings the same size.  I am going to try on this side with the six matching openings.  Free is the size of my current window selection, this leads to a wide variety and no matching even with 20 choices. 

I learned something I did not know yesterday.  Bottle jacks have a safety feature to prevent you from breaking them.  On the main body of every bottle jack is a little rubber plug.  The plug pops out when the jack is overloaded, therefore not injuring anything by a mechanical failure.  I bought a 6 ton and 12 ton bottle jack for leveling the barn, but I needed a third one and all I had around the house was a 4 ton bottle jack.  I popped the safety valve when down on the left corner.  I truly don’t believe there was 8000 pounds of wood (no roof) but trying to move a large beam that is bent requires a lot of force.  The six ton and 12 ton did the job.  I used the 12 ton to get the most leverage and the 6 ton helped out and held it in place. 

I found some 12 inch concrete cubes buried in the ground at the front of the barn.  They were spread out in front of the grain elevator.  Something must have been there, not sure what.  A couple of the blocks used to have bolts in them (rusted out now) so a piece of equipment could have been secured to the ground.  I dug up 12 of them totaling 1.33 cubic yards of concrete, saving me about $60 in concrete pads.  This has been a great find. 

The main beam still has a slight bow in it after leveling the barn.  I have the whole outside wall completed.  Sarah can even attest to the fact that stating “it doesn’t look level” is not the same as taking a level and reading said level.  It is in fact very close to level (bubble is between the lines), not perfect, but I never expected perfection, it is the barn after all.  The rest of the pillars to be placed are for the floor under the barn where the sheep will be.  One of the beams sank and twisted so I need to shore it up. 

I worked hard on leveling the ground after all the digging was completed.

Digging completed.

Finally finished with the digging yesterday.  It helped that I was sore and tired from the day before.  It made me totally reevaluate what was truly necessary.  Plus, I am skinny, so my ultimate criteria was can I crawl under the barn.  The answer is yes, if I crawl on my belly and squeeze I can get every where.  You have to not mind the dried sheep poop everywhere as you slide along on your belly.  I did dig out a few posts so the dirt was not next to them.  This is most likely going to have to be an ongoing project until I get the whole barn dug out.  My best bet is to save up some money and pay someone else to finish the digging.  Won’t happen until Annmarie gets all her window trim inside the house completed. 

I leveled out the back barn lot again.  There was not enough dirt from under the barn so I had to steal some from the sheep shit pile that has not been moved yet.  I kept working the dirt back and forth until I had it nice and level.  Definitely, a wearing your seat belt and roll bar up kind of job.  I am going to hold off on planting grass until after the barn work is done.  If I have to I will drag some sprinklers out and do it in the middle of summer. 

We have two more lambs going for processing this next week.  We sold one and we are going to eat the other.  That leaves me one more to sell.  I am going to put our ram up for sale on Craigslist this week so I will probably put the lamb up at the same time.  Annmarie wants to sell the camel back girl, but I think she is pregnant.  So I will give her one more chance to have a viable lamb.  Currently we are having the sheep eat down the ram pasture.  It was getting out of control and the grass was getting long, almost a foot.  We think the sheep will need at least a week to make it manageable.  I will post some pictures today.  I am going to start working on leveling the barn today.  Once that is done, it is time to tear into the sides and roof!  Amazing how some jobs don’t seem to show any progress, but without them everything else is wasted.

Digging nearing end, 1st Quarter Chicken financials.

I moved some dirt today!  If I hit it hard tomorrow I may be able to finish digging in one day.  Not sure if I can accomplish this heavy task, but am going to give it a try.  The only thing left to dig is the front corner and I have to make three feet wide paths that go under the barn twenty feet. Not going to be easy.  On the other hand I sharpened my shovel on Tuesday and it made digging today amazingly easier.  I wonder how many people actually know they need to sharpen their shovel?  I could slide it into the dirt 100% further than before I sharpened it.  I just use a hand file and sharpen it up.  I get it almost rough knife sharp.  The kind of sharp where you do not want to hit your foot or hand because you are going to lose a small appendage easily.

Zeke and I went out tonight and rounded up the sheep.  He is doing great.  He no longer attacks them, he hangs back and gets them to move without jumping on them and hanging off their sides.  We are still working on a few commands “right”, “left” and “circle around”.  Annmarie tells me there is some fancy name for getting them to circle around, I cannot remember it so I am not going to teach the dog to follow it. I am hoping that once Zeke knows left and right we can segue into the circle around command.  It is so much easier to get the sheep now.

I decided to go away from the monthly chicken report.  I just kept putting it off and the spread sheet keeps a running total that changes if I do two months at the same time.  We will now have a Quarterly chicken report that is cumulative to the year.   The 1st Quarter 2012 (Jan-Mar) report as follows.  Total net income to date is $18.79 loss (not bad considering I purchased a new chicken door for $110 in March).  The average monthly net income is $6.26 loss.  Year to date Laying hens per day 27.7.  Year to date Eggs collected per day 10.6.  Year to date layer productivity is at 38% (not great, hoping it gets better but I caught Zeke today playing with eggs he found in the barn.  He was taking the whole eggs and stashing them and burying them with the shells intact.  Gotta collect eggs before he finds them in the afternoon.).  Year to date pounds of feed consumed per egg 0.41.  Year to date feed cost per egg 0.10 ($1.20/dozen, pretty good at this end, too bad feed is not the only cost).  I think I can be in the black this year, if the new automatic chicken door holds out and the predators don’t kill off all my hens. 

Digging the never ending saga.

More digging.  I know that eventually I will be done digging, just not sure when.  I have one four foot section under the barn then just the two narrow deep tracks under the barn to complete.  I had to crawl out from under the barn and do some digging in the front creek.  Sitting on your butt or digging bent over on your knees is not easy.  Lots of upper body movement, especially when you are digging four to five feet away from your body.  The creek was not much easier.  It stunk to high heaven as I was digging out cow poop.  I managed to get half of the back barn lot section dug out.  I am trying to build the banks up in places.  The creek isn’t very deep or wide but the cows have filled it and after that accidental redirect of the back creek the spring before we moved here the front creek is way wider than normal.  I am working on getting it back to a narrow stream. 

Garden starts, the squash are ready to go in the ground.
Grape plants doing well.

Hopefully, I can get the digging done this weekend.  I think three more days should do it, but I might need five.  Depends on how it goes when I start getting toward the middle of the barn and have to move the dirt pile a couple of times to get it out from under the barn.  Once that is done I can start leveling the barn.  I want to be done with leveling by third week of May.  I want to start in on the roof and front by June.  It is a plan.  I have found that plans change quickly, but it is better to just start out with something. 

Our garden starts seem to be coming along.  Sarah and Grandma Ruby are going to plant the squash plants this Friday.  The rest of the starts are not big enough.  I did manage to get the wood shed door back on.  I had to drill all the way through the door frame and install two 8 inch bolts through the door frame.  I still had to take the lower hinge off the door and straighten it in the vice.  I got it all back together, but the locking slide bar was 1/8 inch too low.  So I chiseled out another 1/4 inch in the receiving hole and it works.  Here is to hoping it works this time.

I need to get the grape plants out and into the ground.  Our weather has been pretty screwy but I cannot wait much longer.  I want to kill some weeds first before I plant the grapes.  2-4-D kills grapes so I need to be careful with my spray.  I sprayed yesterday and then it rained one hour later.  Not sure my spray will do much good.  

Productive Weekend

Sarah and I finished unloading the wood into the barn.  The trailer was greatly relieved of its heavy burden.  I used the spare tire I was wise enough to purchase (thank goodness for not being a cheapskate).  While I was changing the tire I got Sarah up on the tractor.  She got the five minute demo and off she went to start moving the sheep shit pile.  I only had to give her one more set of pointers and she kept it up for a few more hours and got a nasty sunburn on her face.  The weather was stunning all weekend, great time to be outside. 

I took the trailer into Les Schwab and it turned out to be a rock popped the bead and got inside the tire.  The fixed it for $12.50, best news of the day.   Sarah has about another four days to get both sheep excrement piles consolidated.  We were looking at the front of the barn and noticed some honey bees going in and out of a large crack in the wood.  On the backside of the wall it is all enclosed so I am not sure how large the hive is currently.  This is going to cause me to do some kind of work around when tearing off the front of the barn.  The bee portion is in good shape so I may just leave it alone.  Don’t see a lot of honey bees around here. 

Lucky our Ram

On Sunday, Sarah and I went out to catalog the sheep.  We sorted all the sheep into the square pen and attempted to catch the three baby boys that needed banded and tagged.  We chased them back into the barn to catch the last two.  The first one I just flopped on and pinned to the ground.  The damn lambs jump around like jumping jacks.  The little ones can leap four feet off the ground.  Once we had those three finished, we chased them all into the square pen.  I brought Zeke into the pen and had him sit by the gate.  He did great.  Every once in a while he would sneak out of his laying position when I wasn’t looking.  Sarah came up with the great idea of chasing all the sheep into the loading chute and then sorting them out.  We needed to check off each ear tag to see which ones were missing.  It was hectic and once we got a few out into the square pen we would chase them out after checking them off our list. 

Stubborn ewe who always fights with Zeke

The sheep are incredibly stubborn.  I had one ewe refuse to leave the square pen (her baby was still in the chute, but is over three months old).  She ducked her head and scraped her hoof on the ground at me.  I sicked Zeke on her.  Have you ever seen a picture of fighting bears?  Both animals up on their hind quarters, mouths open, teeth snarling, and front legs kicking?  Totally Zeke and that ewe, he was snarling and making a heck of racket.  He weighs in at a whopping 30 pounds and the ewe weighs around 100#.  I had to call him off.  I am continually amazed at how hard headed the Barbados Blackbelly breed is when it comes to protecting their young.  We finally got it finished and had six boys left to weigh.  Two of those are over 85# so they are ready for market.  I will start hunting up customers.  One more weighed in at 81# so he will be ready soon.  There are 31 sheep total right now with 10 whethers (neutered boys), one ram and 20 ewes.  I have the spreadsheet all updated again.  There were a couple of errors on our spreadsheet, so I am hoping we catch all those and get them fixed.  You wouldn’t think it would be that hard, but a misplaced number makes a big difference.

I started spraying weeds.  This will be a never ending battle, but now that I have the trailer I will be taking the mule (four wheeler vehicle) over to get it fixed so it can become the permanent spraying vehicle.  This will be nice as dragging a little 2 gallon sprayer around is very painful.  I need to get on top of those thistles before they get huge.   I got a series of wonderful birthday presents.  Annmarie got me a predator camera for the coop that does infared 30 feet at night and transmits wireless to the home computer.  My parents got me a .17 HMR rifle.  It is very nice and boy those coyotes better look out now.  Very nice rifle.   

New trailer Farmerized.

Wood for barn siding and part of floor, notice flat tire and mounted spare in spare holder keeping trailer off ground.

My poor brand new trailer.  Lets preface this by saying the passenger side mirror doesn’t stay in place, it moves around in the wind.  I went and picked up the trailer Tuesday night.  I forgot to mention that on the way home that night I had to swerve to miss a very large dog standing in the middle of the highway.  I couldn’t swerve too much as I was towing the trailer.  When I looked back in my side mirror the dog was still standing.  Now mind you it was facing 180 degrees opposite of when I went past in the vehicle.  I just took that as an odd coincidence.  Come on, the dog was still standing!!  When I woke up the next morning and was going to work I noticed the dent in the driver side fender of the brand new trailer.  Damn dog. 

Burned paint off and made a bubble in metal from friction.

Today, I went to go pick up lumber for the barn.  I got 4500 bf of lumber at a total weight of 7500 pounds.  The trailer is rated for 7000 pounds.  I was going to go the back roads home (all gravel and not traveled) so I thought I would be safe.  About half way home I started to have traction issues in the pickup.  Then I started to notice the squeaking noise coming from the driver side trailer.  It sounded like a wheel bearing going bad on my brand new trailer.  About 4 miles from home I started to notice the smoke coming from the driver side tire on the trailer.  1 mile from the house I noticed sparks flying from the tire well on the drivers side.   I stopped to open the gate into the barn lot and just about could not get the trailer to pull in next to the barn.  I parked and looked on the passenger side.  The rear tire on the trailer was flat.  The spare tire was hitting the ground occasionally, keeping the rear of the trailer from dragging on the road. The driver side rear tire had been rubbing on the wheel well, burned the paint right off.

Dent in front fender from dog in road. 

My whole load had shifted back two feet.  Too much weight on the back half of the trailer, dire consequences.  I am hoping that I only ruined the tire, not the rim, not the brakes, nothing else.  Nothing is ever easy.  Annmarie helped me unload half the trailer today and Sarah and I will finish it tomorrow so I can have the trailer tire looked at.  I am always amazed at how wrong things continue to happen.