Mowing done!

I did it.  I finished all the tractor mowing in a single day.  I started first thing (for non farm people that is 0730, and for those farm people I was awake at 0530).  I must be getting more proficient at tractor work because it only took me about 20 minutes to remove the box blade and install the mower onto the tractor.  I only had to swear a few times and take my gloves off twice. I told Annmarie tonight that I am not a REAL farmer.  I had ear muffs and goggles on while I mowed.  The tractor is very loud and running the mower makes it worse.  The dust is everywhere.  I tried to mow last year without goggles, but I couldn’t see. 

I mowed the entire barn lot, ram pasture, around my mother-in-law’s house, along the driveway, in front our house, around the machine shop, a huge forest of thistles outside the pasture and an entire loop around the upper pasture creek and fence (1.5 miles).  I had to gas up a second time after five hours on the tractor.  At one point when I was mowing along the back fence the cows came up to the fence to see me.  I though it a little odd as they had been running around for the last couple of days wild out on the main pasture.  I opened the gate for the sheep and forgot about the cows. 

Annmarie came out with Zeke a leash and we went out to get the cows then the sheep.  Since we didn’t know where either of them was we started on the lower pasture.  I had not seen anyone but a doe and some mice when I mowed the upper pasture.  Annmarie was directing the dog, this becomes important later.  We saw some critters on the upper end of the lower pasture.  We hiked down the hill and halfway up found out that it was cows.  Annmarie started directing Zeke (on the leash) to herd the cows to the barn lot.  The cows started to overshoot the gate and I started trying to give commands to Zeke.  This didn’t go over well.  It is kinda like backseat driving and tolerated about as well.  So I had a pissed off wife and a worthless dog.  The cows were too far so I turned Zeke loose and told him to get the cows.  He took off and chased them, circled them up a few times ran them back toward us and back over to their original starting point.  Totally ignored me the entire time.  Then he ran them to the bottoms and went off to get a drink out of the creek.  I finally caught up and clipped him back on the leash. We then walked down towards the cows, who promptly ducked under the horse fence my brother-in-law just finished, two strands of old barb wire at chest height.  The cows just went under it.  We hiked another half a mile and the cows ended up going past the gate and into the upper pasture. 

It dawned on me that I was screwed.  The cows would not come in and it was all my fault.  If I had not tried to back seat drive then it could have been a failed attempt of someone else.  Nope, my fault.  Plus, I let the cows out in the first place.  I had an epiphany.  The cows may come to the tractor.  So I grabbed a bale of hay, in the process the sheep had put themselves in the barn lot, so I lured them into the back barn lot (sheep escape proof).  I jumped on the tractor drove over and loaded the bale.  Meanwhile, Annmarie and Zeke worked their way uphill of the cows.  I drove over and started doing my “here moo cow” impression.  It worked.  The cows walked past the gate then came back and into the barn lot.  They never did come over and eat the hay I dumped out for them.  We walked a few miles just trying to get the cows.  The cows need to stay close to the house.  The sheep come back with little effort and the dog and the sheep seem to have the nighttime routine worked out. 

Barn progress

Yes, it really is going to take me forever!  I do make progress and it is moving forward, it just feels like I need about 40 hours in the day and energy for 30 of them.  Life happens and other things come up so the barn cannot eat up every waking moment.  I tell myself that repeatedly.  Tomorrow I need to break out the mower and see if I can get it to work.  Which means the barn is on hold until late next week.

Morning photo.

I followed the plan.  I tore up the floor.  There were lots of nails and most of them were rusted but still sticking out of the boards.  I finally decided that I would just cut them off with a sawzall.  There was no way to pull them and there were lots of them.  The floor does look a little (lot) uneven, but I just keep telling myself that it is a barn.  It has stood for over 100 years and I am just making it stronger with these improvements.  It will be okay. 

Not a chicken predator, just one of our cats.

When Zeke and I went out this morning we had to let the chickens out of the enclosure.  My automatic chicken door is not working.  I really think it is a great conspiracy. I even broke out my electrical tools and voltmeter.  The transformer is working and there is power going past the on/off switch.  It could be the light sensor, but it is on the back of the control board.  I will have to message the maker of the wonderful auto chicken door and see if he has any ideas.  So we are back to locking the chickens up every night.  I have been putting out the trap at night just in case.  I let the cat out, a little shake and then the door is opened. 

Do you see anything wrong with this?

Just for future reference, you should start tearing the floor from the opposite side of where you are going to stack the boards.  It is not necessary to use your tightrope skills to finish the job.  Now in my defense the wind was howling and with the roof being gone on the far end it creates a wind tunnel.  The dust kept blowing in my face.  By doing it backwards it minimized the dust eating.  The boards are very heavy.  Old lumber is very very hard.  I am infinitely grateful to be using an impact driver to install the screws.  I am not sure I could have done it with a screwdriver.  As it is I broke eight bits installing screws into this old wood. 

New floor going in.

 This is tongue and groove.  I had to add an extra runner to catch the short piece on the left side.  I reused a few of the old floor boards.  I had forgotten that when installing tongue and groove, don’t nail/screw down the previous row.  You will not be able to install the next row.  Two rows will always be free floating and every time you install a row you screw down the third row back.  I really feel that once I get a solid day to dedicate to the floor I can come close to finishing the whole center portion all 11feet 5 inches wide.

Barn floor

I went out to the barn to start working on the floor.  I had to put some supports in the wall first and then worked on the four foot wide pathway.  I got five feet covered and screwed down.  I am leaving 1/4 inch gap between every board.  I was going to but them against each other, but decided some air circulating was needed.  I covered a whopping 20 square feet in 1.5 hours.  After measuring the floor it is 22 feet wide and around 60 feet (I didn’t measure it going off old measurements I remember) long.  This means I have 1320 square feet of floor to recover.  In other words I did 1.5% of the total floor in 1.5 hours.  So the floor alone is going to take me 100 hours! Or in real time 2.5 weeks of 40 hour weeks.  This sucks.  I have windows, doors, a new front and roofing to do.  My help starts in two weeks and he is going to be mostly for the roof.  I am going to have him tearing down buildings so I can get the roof up and in place.  I need to pick up the pace!  Unfortunately, I need to mow and spray weeds before I can devote some serious time to the barn.  So here is to hoping I can squeeze in some barn time.  I may just end up working on it every night for couple of hours after dinner, at that rate it would only take me two months to finish the floor.  This is going to be a long summer.

Predators Beware!

Spring weather.

It was another long day today.  I was up twice in the night thinking I heard a chicken in distress.  The first time was around 0100.  I jumped up, ran over to the window and listened for any further ruckus.  No more noise so I went back to bed.  Around 0410, I heard the death squawk of a chicken, I leaped out of bed and ran around the bedroom looking for my glasses and some pants.  I eventually found both and ran downstairs for the shotgun.  I know have a light and laser attached to the shotgun so I turned those both on and ran outside in my slippers.  I spotted a cat running outside the coop, but no predators.  The automatic chicken door was closed and when I did a head count there were 22 hens and 1 rooster.  Which means I lost another hen earlier in the week, but Zeke had found that body.  I came back in and was unable to go back to sleep. 

Barn in the evening.

When I got home today we set up the infrared remote chicken camera.  It will transmit to a base receiver remotely and can see in the dark!  We tried to get the auto record to work, but the chickens running around on the ground would not trigger it to record, so we set it to record every night from 2300-0500.  This way if I hear a chicken squawk, I can just get out of bed and look at the monitor.  No predator = more sleep.  Way cooler than scrambling for clothes and running out into the cold half dressed.  The camera only transmits 100 feet or we could use it in the barn for the sheep.  The other problem is it requires power.  There is not any power in the barn.  Good thought though, may keep this in mind as the receiver will take four cameras and cycle between them.  I am ready tonight for any predators.  I will set the live trap also before I go to bed. 

Dexter cows.

The weather is awful, rainy and the wind is blowing.  The cheet grass is heading out and needs to be mowed.  The weeds need to be sprayed again.  The chicken coop needs to be dug out so we can get some more babies.  The crap pile outside the barn still needs to be moved so we can work on the outside of the barn.  Lots of stuff to do. 

Booties for sale.

Cowboy wannabee

I knew it was going too smoothly.  Apart from waking up at 0dark30 (0445),  today had been perfect.  The pickup was gassed and ready to go with the trailer all attached.  I was on the road by 0700 with two insulated mugs of french press coffee (real cowboy like coffee with cream and sugar)!  I followed the instructions the lady from Thomas Dexter ranch gave me over the phone with no wrong turns.  At one point it was such a beautiful day you could see all five major mountains in the cascade range on HWY 97.  It took a couple of hours to get the cattle.  She had another customer present and he was even greener than me.  She had me back the trailer up to the corral which I did with no external directions and only jockeying the trailer twice.  She even commented on my great trailer driving.  I am getting better but I think luck played no small part.

Dexter cows in our back barn lot.  These are one year old.

 I had to stop in Biggs Junction to get fuel both directions.  The next 100 miles had one Podunk gas station.  Fuel costs seemed to be my biggest expense.  I am at 330 miles now and have filled the pickup gas tank three times.  I will end up with 1/2 tank left by the time I get home but fuel will have cost $200 for 400 miles.  No wonder everyone wants to buy local.

I was 60 miles west of Pendleton and on schedule to be home by 1615 when the trailer started to shimmy.  I thought it was the road.  It got worse when I sped up.  Luckily, I spotted the rest stop sign in a few miles and pulled over. I checked the pickup tires (ok) and moved onto the trailer.  The passenger side rear tire (dual axle trailer) has a huge chunk missing out of the tread (1/3 tire).  I am sure it was causing the shimmy.  I now regret not grabbing my speed handle (tire changing wrench shaped like a cross).  Luckily after digging around in the pickup cab junk pile, I came across a very large crescent wrench (or “adjustable wrench” as my father would say).  I manage to break the nuts loose but when I am looking at the front tire next to it I see lots of metal radials.  The spare tire is split down the middle and there is only one.  The only jack I could find is the one that is standard for the pickup and it won’t lift the trailer off the ground so I can change out the tire.  Not too mention that I would still run the risk of the other tire blowing up at any moment.  I just gave up and called Annmarie to get me Les Schwab’s phone number.  I called the Hermiston store and had them bring two new trailer tires out.  It was only 75 minutes from the time I called until they showed up.  Pretty dang quick.  The guy had both tires changed and back on the trailer in 15 minutes.  It took almost as long to do the paperwork as it did to do the job.  I wrote this blog while waiting for the tire guy.  All this was a paltry $320. 

Magpie nest.

Annmarie and I did go out this morning to check on the magpie baby.  It had not managed to find its way back into the tree.  I caught it and Annmarie held it while I fished out a ladder and climbed up the ladder to put the magpie back into the tree.  When I was almost to the top of the ladder the magpie jumped out of my hand and onto the tree.  It was fine when we left this morning. 

Magpie baby we put back in the tree.

The cows did fine and are now in the barn lot.  They survived their ordeal.  The Dexter lady did give me a few more facts.  Adults weigh in around 750 pounds.  They take over two years to get their full growth.  These cows only weigh about 300# each.  She isolates the young cows from age 6 months to 14 months so they don’t get pregnant early.  She runs the bull with the heifers year round.  Gestation is 9 months and most of these cows will throw single babies.  You can milk them if you tame them down.  She typically slaughters steers at age 2.5 years.  A carcass weight is minimum of 50% to as high as 65% of live weight (this is very good). 

Ready for cows.

I finished fixing the two sections of fence, I burned up this winter, today.  I installed a new latch on one gate and fixed another gate.  We are all ready for cows tomorrow.  I picked up the borrowed horse trailer (thanks Julie) and gassed the pickup.  I will head out first thing as it is a four hour drive each way.

I changed out the post hole auger for the box blade on the tractor today.  With the box blade being stored in the old raised sheep jug area, it was at the right height to just back in.  It only took me 15 minutes to unhook the one piece of equipment and hook up the other!  I was very happy.  No two hours of swearing and trying to figure out how to lift something several hundred pounds by myself.

I went out and did another chicken count tonight.   We are down to 23 hens and 1 rooster.  I have lost three hens this year.  One died of natural causes and two to predators (Predators 2, Farm 0).  Still need to get some sunflower seeds to use as bait.  I had to adjust the light sensitivity on the automatic chicken door.  It closed tonight and left three chickens outside the coop.  I had to chase them back in.  While I was running around chasing the chickens into the coop I found a baby magpie hoping around inside the chicken yard.  It could not fly.  It should be big enough, the thing was bigger than a robin.  It is hard to fly over a six foot fence.  It probably fell out of the tree and just could not get going again.  I left it alone in the chicken yard and shut the outer door to the yard so a raccoon could not eat it.  Hopefully, it figures out how to fly soon.   

Picture update.

Annmarie’s completed silk shawl for Sarah’s prom and future use.

Here is photo of the completed 100% silk shawl drying out after being blocked.  It turned out incredibly well.  If Sarah takes care of it, it will last a lifetime. 

Treasures found buried in the outside wall of the barn.
Walkway I am going to cover over with 2x6s.
End of the barn that is going to be reworked. 

I am going to rework the large door on the left and make a sheep sized sliding slot door.  In the middle of the picture you can see part of the wall is sheathed in that is were the honey bees are hiding.  I am going to leave the old draft horse tack hanging on the walls. 

Granary chute, this will be taken out and hopefully some stairs added.