Progress of a sort

Winter is coming.  We had snow in the foothills this weekend but a warm wind came in the last two days and melted most of it off.  We are feeding everyone at night around the barn.  The cows are right outside the fence near the barn, the horses in their new enclosure off the barn and the sheep inside the barn.  All this close proximity makes it nice, we just don’t have to move the hay as far.  I cleaned up the house some more, picked up piles and found spots and put stuff away, also filled our trash can.  I can go on thinning binges were everything gets pushed out of the house.  I want to get the library downstairs rearranged and I think we are going to get rid of our yard sale couch, on the breezeporch, and instead put another love seat up there and move an old rocking chair into the library.  The old couch will go to the burn pile.  

I fixed our front screen door.  The latch was not catching very well, so a $0.20 rubber stopper from the hardware store got jammed down behind the latch panel to keep it from bending inwards with use.  I also set the retractor cylinders to the winter position so they close a little tighter now.  
My aunt is giving us an old upright freezer so I went out to the shed and rearranged everything to make room.  It will go right inside the door and give us a total outside freezer capacity of 40 cubic feet.  Who doesn’t need that? It should be enough to allow us to get rid of our meat locker at the butchers.  It is going to come in handy next year when we have beef! I am looking forward to eating our own animals. They have lived a pretty pampered life.  Since it is winter I am back on an exercise regimen which means for the next month or so I should make pretty good progress on my back wall.  It just feels better when I get to do something constructive while exercising.  Anyone who doesn’t believe lifitng rocks and building a rock wall is exercise is welcome to come over and give it a try.  If they really like it I will only charge a small fee for the priviledge!  I am going to have to start bringing in some dirt soon.  I was thinking about knocking down the hill with the tractor and making it a gradual slope down to the wall.  Still not sure what I am going to do about building it up.  I may grade the road above a little more and just use that dirt.  

How long is a work day?

On Monday, for Veteran’s day, Sarah and I went out to the orchard to burn the wood pile.  This is the second largest burn pile on the farm.  The one on the upper hillside is huge!  It is where we piled all the unuseable wood from the barn remodel and various other wood piles discovered in the barn lot.  Our orchard burn pile is mostly composed of trees that have been blown over or limbs from various trees all over the farm.  I had dragged the big pieces of multiple trees onto the pile but we still had a lot of little branches to pick up.  Sarah wanted to know if we could roast marshmellows once we were done, I said sure.  I sent her out with a large paper bag full of newspaper a lighter stick and asked her to start the fire as I got ready.  I did tell her to ball up the paper and to start it on the SE end of the pile.  Twenty minutes later when I went outside there was a thin stream of smoke from the NW corner of the pile from some smoldering paper.  No flames, no wood burning.  I then proceeded to start the fire in the SE corner of the pile, sheltered from the wind with lots of single sheets of newspaper balled up (previous lessons as a pyro as a child can come in handy).  The fire took off in no time with the wind fanning the flames.  

Once the flames were soaring I let the child know that we would now start at the far end of the orchard and start throwing every stick of wood onto the fire throughout the entire orchard.  We used the tractor to drag over the last few large pieces of wood that could not be carried.  The bucket of the tractor became a wheelbarrow for all the little pieces of wood.  After about 4.5 hours of picking up branches Sarah asks if we are done.  I tell her no, we are just getting warmed up.  She then says we have been out here all day!  Out of curiosity, I asked her what she thought the normal length of a workday was?  She said 6 hours.   I laughed and then we talked about 8,10, 12, and 14 hour shifts.  We only had a six hour workday and got to eat roasted marshmellows at the end of it.  

It’s too early for lambs!

Those were Steve’s exact words when I described the following scenario to him.

Let’s back up a few days.  Sometime last week, we had the sheep in the barn, and I said to Steve, “It’s almost time to start locking them in at night.”  He disagreed, and none of the moms-to-be were side-splitting huge, so I didn’t argue.  We’ve been bringing the sheep in at night for feed, but not locking them in so that we have the opportunity to inspect the herd for new additions before they head out to graze in the morning. 

This evening, Zeke and I were bringing the sheep in to the barn, and one of the ewes was lagging quite a bit behind the rest of the flock.  I was concerned, so I moved to a better vantage point so I could see if she was hurt.  She was not hurt.  She had two little lambs with her!  It’s too early for lambs!  Based on the gestation time for sheep, these babies were conceived sometime around June 20.  Unfortunately, we have no idea who the father was.  We had several wethers who were not actually wethers (we call them one-nutters), as well as our new Barbados ram, so everything born this year will have to be eaten or sold.  No keepers in the batch.  That said, they sure are cute.  Photos tomorrow.

Farm 2, Predators 1

It happened some time last week, I lost a chicken.  I found the carcass outside the chicken coop mostly eaten.  I knew it was coming, there was a lone chicken that had decided it did not want to sleep in chicken knox.  Its stupidity needed to be rewarded so I just let it do its own thing.  

Two nights ago at bedtime I was turning out the back porch light and happened to glance outside and spotted a huge possum eating the cat food.  I grabbed the .22 pistol by the back door and stepped outside, the possum was gone.  I had forgotten to grab a flashlight so only had the porch light to see out into the dark.  Today, I cleaned off the laundry room shelves but moved the pistol so it would still be handy and put a large flashlight next to the predator killer.  
Tonight Zeke wanted to go outside and run around before bedtime.  Sometimes I let him go out for 30 minutes and terrorize the cats and anything that moves in our yard.  Annmarie and I were in the kitchen and we heard him raising a ruckus and barking nonstop outside the kitchen window.  He is not a barker, almost never barks.  So I grab the pistol and large flashlight and go out the back door.  Zeke is running around the base of the maple tree barking up at something, a raccoon!  He had treed a raccoon.  I went over to the base of the tree and brought out the pistol, as soon as Zeke saw the pistol he took off for the front bushes.  He does not like guns, if he could vote, it would be for gun control.  Big scaredy cat, will tear into cow with large horns but don’t let him see a gun.  Once the dog disappeared the raccoon started down the tree not scared of me a bit at the base.  I shot it once in the head on its way down, no more chicken killer.   Sometimes it seems harsh to someone not living out here, but we don’t go out of our way to harass the wildlife we just enforce the .22 rule around our house.  The predators cannot eat the chickens, cat food or cats.  Those animals all serve a purpose on the farm and cannot be spared.  Now I just need to get that possum.  The amazing thing is now that I have a working automatic chicken door I actually have to cull my own birds and get eggs year round.  At the beginning of the year I was only gettting one egg a day.  It was awful.  So we will continue to enforce our boundaries.  

Weekend finale.

I am all caught up after this post.  I will make a pinky promise to do better and try to be more timely in the future.  We have been using Zeke every night to put the sheep in the barn.  We have not been locking them in at night just putting food out and letting them leave whenever they want.  Usually, they will spend the night in the barn and leave while it is still dark in the morning.  They haven’t been eating hardly any hay, so there must be more out on the back hillside and pasture than there looks.  The horses have been picking at their food, the only one who has been eating their nightly allotment is the cows.  We have been feeding for the last 10 days. 

Now that the sheep and Zeke are starting to get the routine down it only takes about 10 minutes to get the sheep in the barn.  As it gets cold and the forage goes away the sheep practically put themselves away in the barn because that is where they get fed.  
Our bees made it through another summer and are still holed up in the barn wall.  I am going to leave them alone again this year and hopefully get to them next winter.  I want to get the sorting chute inside the barn and some stairs up to the walkway before I mess with the bees.  I need to brace myself first, it may become a painful undertaking. 
One of the guys from work is coming out soon so we can kill a sheep and he wants to cut it up himself.    I told him there is a skinning pole all set up out here.  We can drag a hose out, of the wood shed, and hook it up to the faucet so there is running water.  
On a plus note, Annmarie got our weather station to work!  I am very excited.  I miss not being able to look at the wind speed and our rainfall amount.  These are useful items to keep track of in the blog.  I will be updating the chicken spreadsheet soon and get that out here also.  Have a great month. 

Taming of the cows.

We moved the cows out to their winter pasture.  For us this means out front of the houses on the main road into the property.  This lets us feed over the fence just outside the barn and keeps the cows, horses and sheep all in their separate area so there is no food competition.   Everyone has been working on taming the cows.  The adults will let you feed them apples directly from your hands.  The bull seems to like women better than men.  He waves his horns in the air for an apple then lets Sarah rub his head between his horns.  Our goal is to be able to just walk up and rub on them.  It sure makes them easier to work around.  The babies are still pretty jumpy.   

I managed to get the spare tire out of the broken pickup with some help from Kelly.  Unbeknownst to me the lowering mechanism for the spare tires is pinned together and the pins are easy to break.  Kelly fixed it with a piece of copper wire from some Romex cable I had in the old house.  Once the spare was down I got the new used tire moved over to the undamaged rim.  It is on the pickup and it is ready to be moved near the house so I can reach the power cord so I can create the beast!  OPEN AIR FARM TRUCK WRECK.  no roof, no doors and seat covers made out of a plastic tarp and duct tape.  A pure genius inspiration. There were some damages noted to the suspension on the vehicle when we crawled underneath it, I would not trust it at highway speeds.  Good thing the farm truck will never go over 15 mph.  
I went in to the parts store to buy some new lights for the trailer and fuses for the pickup.  I picked up two lights and had to order the fuses.  Both lights were the wrong size and they haven’t called to tell me the fuses are in.  I will have to stop by this week and get it sorted out.  
I went out and tried to drag the pear tree to the burn pile with my little tractor.  No way, the front tires were off the ground and it only went one direction which was not the direction I wanted to go.  So instead of cutting the tree into two pieces I went over and scooped up a big scoop of rocks with the bucket and then chained right back up to the tree.  It worked great, front tires stayed on the ground and I got the whole downed tree to the burn pile in one trip.  The weather is nice and dreary and we have had some rain so the burn pile is itching to be burned, but the last two days the wind has been terrible.  I need a calm day before I burn.  Just waiting for an opportunity.  

Chickens are on the move and reorganized.

The chickens are going places!  The babies got moved out to the baby pen, I cleaned it all out and set it up with a five gallon bucket and the drip waterers.  This system works great and doesn’t make a wet mess all over the ground from water gettting thrown around by the chicks.  We still have eight naked neck turkens running around and getting bigger every day.  I have been keeping the heat lamp going for them and not only does it keep the chickens warm it keeps the water from freezing as it hangs near the heat lamp.  I got the light timer reset and the egg production has been steadily increasing, we are getting around 10 eggs per day now.  I still had three hens that needed to be culled and Sarah came to me saying they needed a chicken’s foot for her current play at school so on Saturday I snapped necks and removed a foot, Sarah plucked some feathers for decorating the foot.  The old hens went up to the boneyard.  The foot was then placed in a dry coke can in which I had cut the top off and filled with table salt.  Today we decided that it was not drying out fast enough so we changed out the salt and put it in the oven in the salt bath at 170 degrees for a few hours to speed up the drying process.  Once it is dry Sarah can attach the feathers.  It will be a cool prop for the play.