Ongoing Fencing.

New Rock cribs.

 I am still fencing.  No big surprise here.  Anyone who fences animals can tell you it is a never ending process.  Rule #1 Fencing never ends, Rule#2 It always takes longer than you think, Rule#3 The sheep will always find a hole. 
Monica, our foreign exchange, helped me lay out the boards on Sunday.  I asked her if she wanted to help me fence, and she volunteered (pretty sure she didn’t know what she was volunteering for).  She showered and put on clean clothes before we went out.  We dug through the scrap fencing pile and pulled out over 100 pieces of used fencing rails to use as new rock cribs.  Multiple trips up onto the hill to distribute said rails to the appropriate locations we finished with that task.

More new rock cribs.

We then graduated to pitch forking the weeds out of the upper fence line so I can retighten and add a couple of strands.  The fence line is about 2/3 completed.  She did finally break out into a sweat a couple of hours into the job.  After we finished she had to take another shower.  We are getting her some work clothes and boots this upcoming weekend. 

I have spent the last two days building rock cribs.  I keep changing the design.  Annmarie is not particularly happy with the height of them.  I told her after they were full of rocks I could touch them with the chainsaw and lower them a little bit.  I finished all six today and filled one with rocks already.  The rest of them need rocks, but the rocks are barely sticking out of the hillside and won’t come out easily.  I had to get the tractor up and going after Mr President sprung a leak on the hydraulics.  The tractor is running and I have the box blade attached.  I will hit the rocks with the box blade to pull them out of the ground and then just lay the bucket next to the rocks then get off and roll them in to the bucket.  Then I can lift the bucket next to the rock jack and just roll the rocks out.  Easy peasey.  No lifting 50# plus rocks off the ground, carrying them to the rock jack, lifting them over the side and dropping them in.  Much easier with the tractor. 

I noticed my first dent in the tractor today!  The hood has a dent in it about the size of a basketball.  I am sure it from a falling piece of sheep manure.  Not sure when it happened.  My trailer has multiple dents, a bent light fixture, a broken wooden floor, and a flat tire.  Everything is getting farmerized.

Hopefully, by next week I can have the new fence up.  I attempted to drive metal posts into the ground today.  I picked the perfect time of the year, the temperature has been over 90 for a month and there has not been any measurable rain for 6 weeks.  The ground is like concrete.  It doesn’t help that I am building rock cribs because it is a rocky hillside.  I managed to get 6 posts in the ground.  I bet I tried over 50 times.  Some of the spacing is determined by where I could get the posts to go into the ground.  I have one very large stretch that may cause me to build one more rock crib.  I am going to attempt to string wire without that extra rock crib.  I am going to need some wooden spacers to keep the fence in line and prevent the animals from spreading the wires. 

I took my .17 HMR out every time I fenced this week.  Of course, I did not see a single coyote.  NO Gun = coyotes, Gun= no coyotes, go figure.  We had to herd the cows into the sorting chute today to look at some wounds on the bull.  He got into the compost fence and scratched his scrotum and belly.  The wounds were healing, but the cows were covered in flies.  We are talking hundreds of flies per cow.  It was amazing.  Annmarie got the horse fly spray out and while we had them in the chute she sprayed them all down.  Not a single fly by the time we were done.  We also turned them out onto the upper pasture.  They still came in at night, but they can leave to eat.  The fence I am building is for the sheep. 

Fencing for forage. Predators 8, Farm 1.

Annmarie called me while I was at work this week to let me know she had done a chicken count.  I lost two more hens.  I need to lose the rooster, he is expendable.  The predators have figured out that the human door doesn’t latch very well and pops open on occasion.  We had noticed it over the last few weeks but had not seen any predators.  Just before I left for work, Zeke got sprayed by a skunk in our front yard.  I figured it was coming around for a chicken snack.  He had to spend the night out on the run, (being kennel trained he made quite a bit of ruckus about spending the night on the run and he kept barking at all the animals).  So it is most likely a skunk.  I hate skunks, there is no good way to dispose of them without them spraying.  It always smells.  I definitely need to get the trap setup. 

We have seen coyotes during the day on two separate occasions in the last week.  Of course, I had no gun.  So now every time I leave the house to fence I carry a rifle.  I am currently using the .17 HMR.  It is good for 200 yards.  If I have trouble due to distances then I will switch over to the .243.  Fencing has become a priority again.  The sheep have been running all over the countryside.  We let them out to eat on the main pasture and of course they went straight to the holes in the fence and went out onto the road.  The neighbors have been chasing them off the road and calling my mother-in-law.  I went up onto the hillside to work on fence last night and spent a couple of hours digging the weeds out of the fence so I could see the fence.  I still have another 100 yards of fence to clean up.  I was doing it all by hand, but I intend on using the pitchfork today.  Once it is all cleaned up I can fix it and tighten it.  I need to add one or two more rows to keep the sheep in.  We are also going to subdivide the hill so we can let the sheep out sooner.  That will give me more time to get the upper fence fixed.  The upper fence is a very big job.  There is a lot of fence to fix. 

Yesterday we let the horses and cows out into the area in front of the houses.  The horses came out and grazed around.  I thought this was a great idea as the front area is not sheep safe and my mother-in-law’s roses take a beating when the sheep get into her yard.  This morning at “0 dark thirty” Annmarie says to me “I remember why we cannot have the horses out there, they eat cars”.  I almost leaped off the bed in a state of panic.  She was absolutely right!  The pickup has scratch marks in the paint and so does my tractor.  Luckily, this morning the horses were in the barn lot and I shut the gate.  I don’t want bite marks on the cars.

Wandering Sheep

Sarah & I went to the Tri Cities on Tuesday to pick up Monica, the exchange student we are hosting for the year.  Her plane landed at 11:50 pm, so we stayed the night and took our time getting around yesterday.  We arrived home about noon and started the process of getting settled in.  I was in the laundry room when Sarah said, “Hey Mom, did you know the sheep are out?”  I asked where, exactly they were out.  They were out by the cars, which means the front CRP, where they are not supposed to be, so I called Mom to see how long they had been out so I could determine if this was a “fix it now” sort of out or an “I can wait a bit” sort of out.  Mom told me they had been out, “Days and days.”  Now, since we had expended significant effort to get them back in on Monday, and they were all in when we left Tuesday morning, I knew that was not quite accurate, but it did speak to Mom’s frustration.  Apparently many neighbors had called Mom to tell her they had been out.  This only happens when they are out out.  Meaning not on the farm or in the CRP.  That translates as on the road, which is not good.   Since I knew Steve had worked on the barn lot fences and thought he had them secured, I knew that was not going to be an easy fix.  But, I did know where the holes were in the orchard and thought I could get them secured with a couple of panel scraps and some wire, so out I went.

Zeke found a new toy

I used the ends left over from the feeders, and some wire Steve had in the old house.  I think I may owe him a new pair of wire cutters, though, since I think this may have been some sort of hardened wire and it may have nicked his cutters.  Anyway, I spent about 2 hours out in the summer heat and got patches up on the holes.  One of them was over the creek, and I know it’s not good.  I kept telling myself that it only needed to hold for 48 hours, because Steve will be home to fix it right on Friday.  Anyway, I got it done, and the sheep considerately decided to come home about the same time I finished so I didn’t have to go searching for them, I just had to move them from the ram pasture to the orchard.  They looked awful – hot and tired.  Sometimes animals need to be protected from themselves.

Damn Animals.

Annmarie and I had just finished dinner when the call came in, the sheep were up in the CRP above the house.  One of the neighbors had found them on the road and chased them into the CRP then called our mother-in-law.  Around here, animals getting out is fairly common.  I have now had to shift gears to fencing and more fencing.  So I took the trusty sheep dog, Zeke, put on some slippers and headed up the hill.  Annmarie put on some boots, grabbed a halter for one of the horses and went to get the errant horse.  Hogs would not come back to the house and was standing up on the hillside near the fence and the other horses.  Mika, (other horse) was down at the house whinnying nonstop for Hogs.  Zeke was constantly being distracted by voles.  He loves catching them and had to be constantly reminded that we were doing “work” and he could play later (he is only 11 months old).  I was able to tell him to find the sheep and he took off toward the road, scaring up 3 deer.  I had to make him lay down (120 yards away from me) until the deer ran off.  He then ran into the CRP and the sheep were herded back to the hole in the fence.  You just keep a little pressure on them with the dog and they just wander back the way they came.  There is a veritable highway crossing through the fence in that location.  It needs to be fixed.  The fence from there to the bone yard needs to be tightened. 

Once the sheep and horse were in the ram pasture we started looking for the cows.  No cows!  We started trudging up toward the upper pasture (I am starting to regret my choice of foot wear about now).  I called Zeke from the house and he ran out to meet us and then run across the field harassing voles.  We had to walk all the way to the end of the field before I spotted a brown side, I said cow, Annmarie said no, she thought it looked like a creek diverter (made out of old metal barrels for flood irrigation, located right where it should be).  The brown spot was not moving.  Once we got a little closer the cow stuck her head up.  The other three were down in the dry creek bed hiding.  Zeke refused to be of any assistance.  He was tired and did not want to do anything.  I had to run across the field in my slippers to head the cows off from sneaking behind us once.  The field had a lot of thistles.  I never did get the upper field sprayed as I concentrated on the hillside and the lower fields.  The upper field had already budded out and the spray guys told me it was too late by then.  So instead of putting expensive spray on the ground that wasn’t going to control the weeds, I will wait until next year and hit it earlier.  Everything is ready and working now so it should go smoothly. 

The cows came home with us walking behind them.  All was good and the sunset was gorgeous (thanks to all the wild fires).  Zeke was outside just before bedtime running around, when he started to bark.  I then smelled skunk.  Luckily, the dog did not get a full spray to the body from the offending skunk, he only caught a small backlash.  The front bushes caught the brunt force of the spray.  Zeke still smelled like skunk so he had to sleep outside.  This is new to him as he normally sleeps in a kennel.  So he barked frequently throughout the night.  It was not very restful for all involved.  On a much larger note, I am betting the skunk has been eating my chickens.  The automatic chicken door still works but the human door has been having latching issues and has been open the last few days.  Definitely, time for a chicken roll call this weekend.  I am betting the count is going to be off.  Damn Predators!

Fencing… Again.

Since the cows got out fencing has again reared its ugly head.  I have taken a club and am attempting to beat it back into submission.  Annmarie thought the cows were getting out right next to the road so I spent 7 hours cleaning up the fence line (lousy 100 feet), removing each strand and retightening it, patching the old sheep fencing and repairing it where I could.  It is in the upper 90s these last two days.  It is miserable.  I finished that all up today and the fence looks great, good for another 5-10 years with me doing nothing to it.  The deer are going to be pissed as there were two different deer highways crossing the downed fence. 

I happened to be driving along the CRP to the house and thought I might check the interior fence going into the hay pasture.  The gentleman leasing the pasture had already tilled the ground.  I drove up to the dried creek and found a huge gaping hole!  The cows did not crawl through the fence I just spent 7 hours repairing.  They just walked up the dried creek or went through the hole in the fence next to the creek.  I another three hours dragging the panels back in place over the creek and repairing the fence on both sides of the creek.  The power company had pulled the meter out of the old pump junction box and disconnected the transformer from the power line.  They used to back up the creek and install a pump into the back creek and irrigate the pasture.  There is a whole row of 4 inch aluminum pipe alongside the fence.  I need to empty the irrigation pipe trailer and start snagging all the pipe I have found since last year.  I am still trying to get it all into one location so we can get it repaired or scrapped. 

I ended up retightening about 60% of the sheep wire in that whole fence line.  It looks a lot better, but the upper three strands of barb wire need to be tightened also.  The fence bordering the CRP along the upper pasture has multiple low spots were the deer have created their own crossings.  The deer are lazy and don’t want to jump over the fence.  Instead, they crawl through the fence and push it apart in the process. 

One of the hens has decided to sit on some eggs, so I am letting her.  We should know in 21 days if this works out or not.  We will see if she can stay on top of them.  If they hatch I will put them and her into the baby area alone so no one can pick on them.  More fencing tomorrow, I will add some more sheep fencing up at the cattle guard and fix our four gates so they open and close easily and attach boards to the bottoms of the gates so the sheep cannot crawl under them. 

Jinxed

Steve did it.  He jinxed us.  Yesterday, as we were sitting down to dinner, he said, “the cows have free access to the hillside, and they aren’t taking it.”  Never, never, ever point out something that is working in your favor.  It will change.  
Today, he left for two days and Kadlec, after which he comes home for a few hours on Sunday, and then goes to Aurora, OR for orientation with Lifeflight, after which we have no clue what his schedule will be for the near term.  So, he’s essentially unavailable for at least the next week, and potentially for longer.
Sarah and I went down to the fair this afternoon for a little sight-seeing, since we didn’t get to see everything we wanted to when we went on Wednesday.  We had a very nice afternoon, and Sarah took part in an improvisational bit of entertainment put on by an outfit called, “The Cutest Show on Earth.”  She had a lot of fun participating, and I had a lot of fun watching.  We stopped at the grocery store and Grandma Lane’s for some produce on the way home.  Sarah was looking forward to packing for camp, and I was looking forward to sitting and not moving, because yesterday’s ram-rangling has left me a bit achy.  But, it was not to be.  
As we were driving in, the nephew was pulling out of Mom’s in her pickup.  He followed us up to the house and stopped behind the car.  I got out to see what he needed, and he told me the cows were out.  I told him that was OK.  We were letting them graze the upper bottom and hillside.  He informed me that they were Out.  As in not on the farm.  As in the neighbors had called and said we needed to come get our roping steers.  Now, they aren’t roping steers, but that’s beside the point.  I swore a little bit inside my head (it had to be silently because I didn’t want to be a bad example, after all), and asked Sarah to go let Zeke off the run for me.  He and I loaded up into the pickup, we loaded up a panel in case we needed it, and caravaned up the road.  Sure enough – there were the cows in the neighbor’s alfalfa field.  Definitely not where they were supposed to be.  We discussed strategy, and decided the boys would stay with the rigs to form a gate when the cows got close so they would cross the road instead of turn and run up it.  Zeke and I headed off down the alfalfa field to get the cows.  
He was sort of helpful.  There were a lot of distractions – the sheep that lived in the field next door, miniature horses, lama’s, more sheep….you get the idea.  But with some guidance, he eventually got the idea that I actually wanted him to chase the cows for once, and he got them moving down the field.  They run faster than I do, so it’s good that the boys were down at the other end to encourage them to head for home instead of the hills.  Of course, they (the cows) didn’t do it the easy way, which would have been to go into the open gate almost directly opposite the one they used to exit the alfalfa  field.  Instead, they jumped the fence into the CRP, but that got them back onto our place so it worked.  The nephew followed them in and got them back into the barnlot where they belong.  I went to close the gate.  The cows have proven themselves to be unsatisfied with home, so they have now lost their larger pasture priveleges until we have time to get some fence repaired. Zeke and I went on out to put the sheep in, and as we were passing that gate, the cows were looking at it forlornly as if to say, “We liked that adventure.  Why can’t we go out there again?”  The grass in this case actually is greener on the other side of the fence, but it doesn’t belong to us, they are going to have to make due.  Trust me, they are not starving.
My mother says it’s just the curse of the farm.  Every time they left the place, the cows got out.  I think it’s because Steve jinxed us.

Pictorial update of barn.

Barn roof done for the year.

Granary skeleton.

I took these a couple of days ago, things are always changing but this should get the big picture update completed.  We were short two pieces of metal roofing to complete the entire animal covering. I had visions of completing all the windows this summer.  No way can I get it all done this year.  The two hanging doors need to be installed.  We built the one by the tack room today and hung the 1/2 door over my fancy door today.  Only two more exterior doors to complete the “necessary” work on the outside of the barn.   The floor inside is all down!  I need to screw down three sections, but I used the impact hammer for over 8 hours two days ago and my right hand was numb and almost twice its normal size (it was over 100 F).  So I have been careful to only use the impact hammer for a couple of hours a day.  I don’t want a repeat of the club hand.

Cleanup almost completed.

Front of the barn, still needs some work.

Fancy door within a door for the sheep.

Old granary door now tack room door.

Tack room with ceiling.

Front floor completed.

Back corner floor completed

This area to the right of the rode needs to be fenced in to make a small pasture for the mothers.  They will have access to the front creek.  Everyone needs access to the always running front creek.  I really want to install this fence but the barn needs a few more things before I can move forward with any fencing. 

My tractor sprung a leak the other day when Mr. President was loading sheep dung.  Luckily, he just shut it down and told me.  It was just a loose hydraulic connection on the front bucket.  The real problem is I don’t know how to replace the hydraulic fluid.  I had to read the manual and find out that the transmission fluid is the hydraulic fluid.  It is low so no driving the tractor until I refill it.  The tractor has 68 hours on it, at 75 hours I have to change the oil, oil filter, transmission filter and transmission fluid.  One more solid day of cleaning up the barn lot and we will be at the maintenance mark. 

Trophy wall.

Those light eyes in the middle are the storage room above tack room.

Grain dispenser

The large opening at the top of the peak on the barn is going to have a window in it.  I have a four foot by eight foot window ready to go.  The opening is plenty big enough for this window. 

I am going to drag a couple of railroad ties over to put under the door so the sheep won’t have to step down 1.5 feet.  I will build the area up with some rocks and dirt. 

Jug completed and ready for sheep.

All this stuff was down inside the walls buried in hay dust and sheep dung.  Most of the horse shoes are from draft horses and still have the nails in place.  We figure they are from shoes that were thrown off by the horses.

There is another storage room above the tack room now.  This is going to be the staging area for the large window.  I don’t want to try and drag the window up the entire outside of the barn.