Year end musings.

Zeke is not a happy camper.  Not only is he confined to the house again but he has to wear a t-shirt so he doesn’t lick the steri strips off his belly.  He looks like a chick from the early eighties with his t-shirt all tied in a knot to make it shorter.  He is not impressed.  After another two weeks he should be okay.  By day 6 he starts bolting for the door in an attempt to get out and run around the house.  He misses chasing the cats.  
The weather was perfect yesterday.  The sun was shining it was warm and I ran around in a long sleeve shirt all day.  Today, it is a dreary December day.  The clouds are low and drizzling rain, the wind is blowing a nice biting cold and there is no sun.  It is hard to believe they are consecutive days.  Lee, the contractor is out working on the third side of the machine shop.  He is putting more brown tin up.  He should be done in a few days.  It is looking very nice.  Afterwards it will just leave the front and it needs a few new beams to replace the broken ones.  After that the shop will stand for another 50 years.  

I worked on the rock wall the other day.  I really wanted to drive the tractor up on the hillside and move some dirt behind the wall.  I am about 18-24 inches in the air and need to backfill before I can go any higher.  It was so not going to happen, the mud was so slick I thought I was standing on an inch of ice.  So instead I used the wheelbarrow to bring up more rocks and continue the wall.  I will eek out a few days this summer to move dirt and give myself some room to continue going up.  I think the wall will only be 4-5 feet tall.  I am going to get the first wall completed before I start the second one!  The main sheep compost pile that used to be in the barn is starting to break down nicely.  It is going to give me most of the needed dirt to backfill the first wall.  

The wheat that was planted this fall is just starting to pop up down by our driveway.  I noticed thin little strands of green today.  If I took a picture I am not sure you would even notice the green amongst all that dirt.  

Cow feeder moved.

The cow feeder area was starting to get ankle deep in muck.  When we started to feed this fall the area was flat and level, now it is a mud pit.  Our new plan is to set up all four panels in a square out on the area by the grain bins and move the feeding panels every 2 weeks.  This means loading the feeding area with lots of hay.  It took me 7 bales to line the inside of the feeder with a hollow square in the middle.  If we need to, we are prepared to fill the hollow with something to keep the hay were the cows can reach it.  I may be able to use old tires stacked in the hollow space.  Who knows, we will just have to wait a week and see how it turns out.  I did get to use the trusty tractor too move the panels.  They are very heavy and hard to drag along the ground.  I will drag out the mud pit later when it dries up some.  I did drag out part of the floor of the old lambing shed where the tractor is stored.  The old sheep shit is drying into these huge clumps that attempt to turn your ankle when walking inside the shed.  I need to pull out the mower and mule to get the rest but it will have to wait.  


I had scraped the dirt first in an attempt to move some of the cow patties.  During this movement I had to keep the gate open and the cows got out into the upper pasture with the horses.  So Zeke and I went out to get them.  I rode out on the tractor and Zeke followed along.  On the way up I noticed that the entire upper bottom had been mowed.  We had agreed to let the upper pasture be put into hay but the line was not all the way to the current fence.  I am going to run another fence in the spring up the bottom so we can have another pasture for the animals.  I can run 2-3 more fences and create a few more pastures.  
So the cows ran up on the hillside and I sent Zeke up to get them, but no cows came down.  So I had to get off the tractor and supervise the dog closer.  This worked to push the cows to the end of the fence but he didn’t want to push them toward the creek.  The evil horses kept trying to chase the dog and the cows.  There was much swearing and waving of arms.  I was not sure who to swear at at one point, cows, horses or dog? The dog ran through the upper fence to get in the CRP so the horses could not get him and then I had to call him back.  We eventually got the cows into the correct area and I lured the horses back in with some grain.  I had to give both dogs baths because they smelled like sheep or cow poop.  After everyone was clean, Sarah noticed Zeke had blood on his belly.  Yep the moron cut himself again!  He had a four inch gash in his abdomen from the old barb wire fence.  We clipped then shaved his belly and steri stripped the wound closed.  We had to order more glue and steri strips from Amazon last night as we are running out!  To add insult to injury Zeke has to wear a T-shirt now to prevent him from licking his chest.  He is not a happy camper.  He still has a cut on both feet and we are talking about getting him some shoes so he doesn’t cut himself so much.  

3rd Quarter Chicken financials

On average I had 17.7 laying hens giving me 5.2 eggs/day, for a productivity rate of 27% (this is horrible, in the last quarter I have only gained 2%).  I am feeding on average 127# chicken feed/month for a grand total of 1000# this year already.  This is good as I did not feed much during the third quarter but it is not helping.  With the price of feed going up every month my monthly feed bill is $41.12/month (a drop of $2.35/month).  On average just feed costs are $3.87/dozen eggs (an increase of 21 cents/doz, meaning I am now loosing $0.87 every time I sell a dozen eggs).  I have only collected 1437 eggs to date.  Total feed costs are $329, supply expenses are $376 and baby chicks for the year are $60.  I have lost $238 for the year (only lost $12 this quarter).  There is no way the chickens are going to be in the black this year.  I did thin out the nonproductive hens which is why my productivity increased but I should have done it sooner.  Plus, loosing half my new babies this year to self suffocation cut into my production.  I will need to start some new chicks first thing this spring to bring my numbers around.  My six little naked neck turkens should start laying by March and that will help dramatically.  I only have two free loaders left and they are laying more than 25% so they get to stay.  I need to get brown egg layers in the spring so I can tell who is who.  

Don came over at the beginning of the week and we killed the last two whethers.  He helped me tag all the babies and we let them back in with the main herd and turned all the jug momma and babies into the baby area after they got tags.  Only the oldest boy was ready to be banded at 1 month old and I still had to fish around to make sure I had both testicles.  I think two months old is a better age for finding testicles.  Since then we have had two more ewes give birth.  We have had three still born babies all from mothers having multiple offspring.  
Gannon and I had to go out and fix gate and fencing behind the grain bins.  The cows were pushing over the long equipment gate and going out to eat.  We found them about two miles from the house headed up the gravel road to Rocky Ridge.  We anchored the ends, installed braces and cross pieces and then ended up restapling and tightening fence.  We restapled all the way to the corner post.  I will need to tighten the barb wire strands in the spring time.  But for now, the cows can no longer get out of the pasture.  

First bummer this birthing cycle.

Well things didn’t quite turn out the way we wanted them.  Annmarie went out first thing this morning and found the ewe was head butting the baby we helped out last night.  She kept pushing it away so it could not nurse.  They do this to other momma’s babies to keep the freeloaders at bay.   Annmarie pinned the ewe against the wall and let it nurse till it was full then we brought it into the house.  I like using a large box when we have one instead of a laundry basket.  They always get out of the laundry basket!  I keep offering him formula every hour but he doesn’t want to take it from me.  So it’s a battle. I am good at doing things not so much at nurturing.  No big surprise.  I have to go play with the baby it is trying to get out of box and bleating impatiently.  
Annmarie bottle feeding the baby.  

Not every thing is glorious.

I had to go out of town today for work so it meant something had to go wrong on the farm.  It never fails to happen.  Annmarie called first thing to say that the cows had gotten out.  But before she could get the cows she had to go out and let the sheep out of the barn.  There were two new moms and two  babies.  The first mom was wild and did not want to go in a jug so Annmarie used the cow panel to pen her and the baby in their side of the barn.  The other mom was still in labor with a healthy baby next to her.  Annmarie fed everyone and then took Zeke out to chase the cows back where they belonged.  Zeke was a little over anxious and had to be called back repeatedly so he could stay focused. 

 He has had his foot dressing off for a few days now.  His limp was getting worse so we took the dressing off.  We had to wrap the foot so tight that Zeke could not get off but we forgot about his dew claw.  He had a healed cut but ended up with a pressure sore by his dew claw.  It is getting better every day, but hopping around on three legs for weeks has led Zeke to need some physical therapy.  So we make sure to take him out with us every time we go outside so he can run around and get that leg strong again.  
Once the cows were back out front everyone settled into their normal routine.  Annmarie went out to the barn a couple more times and the ewe was still in labor every time with no new baby.  She called and wondered when I was getting home.  We decided that the ewe might need some help.  I have never had to do anything like this before so we looked at some pen drawings on the internet about the potential problems and how to correct them.  Luckily, a couple of years ago I bought some shoulder length gloves (they only come in packs of 100!) so I didn’t have to go commando!  We brought ky lube but I told Annmarie we probably would not need it if there was enough discharge.  We discussed whether this should have been done earlier but the ewe has to be tired enough for us to handle her and let us inflict this upon her.  There were no exposed parts when I started.  I figured it would be easy so I only put on the right glove.  As a reminder, the human arm can only turn so far, that turn radius is seriously impaired when some animals vaginal muscles are clamping down on your arm.  I had to stop and get the second glove.  I found one leg but could not find the other one!  I kept trying to find the other leg but it is not that easy “seeing” with your fingers on one hand.  Every once in a while I thought I felt a baby move but I could never tell what it was.  I finally managed to get two legs out and pulled, and pulled and pulled.  Out popped a dead baby, Annmarie told me I had to go back in and look for a third baby.  So I stuck my hand back in and pulled out a third baby that was deceased also.  She told me I had to go in again to get the placenta.   I told her it needed to come out on its own so I didn’t cause any more bleeding.  A water sack appeared and then another black blob.  I reached down and pulled another baby out!  It was not moving, which was sad but it increased the odds of the ewe surviving.  When suddenly it started to move, I tore it out of the membrane sack and the only thing we had to dry it was my jacket!  I tried some straw but it was not working very well.  Annmarie got it mostly dry and she moved it right next to momma’s head.  Momma started licking it dry while she was laying down.  After about 15 minutes she got up and Annmarie picked up both babies and moved them all in to a jug.  The ewe followed the babies right into the jug.   Momma started eating and drinking right away.  She has the largest udder we have ever seen, her body was definitely ready for four babies.  We are hoping everyone does well through the night.  

The baby laying down is the one that was just born.  This is not something I would like to do every day but it is amazing we were able to save a baby.  

Sheep/Chicken Show.

It got very cold here in Eastern Oregon!  The beginning of the week we had record cold temperatures.  It was as low as -18 degrees Farenheit at our house.  The older chickens did just fine.  I still had a heat lamp for the babies (who are over three months old) on and it brings the whole coop up about 20 degrees at least.  All the walls have insulation in them so when the door and windows are closed it is airtight.   I had opened up the baby area to allow them to go outside and cruise around in the 360 degree enclosed pen.  Unfortunately, I forgot how stupid the chickens can be.  Two of them went outside and froze to death 12 inches from the entrance to the coop and 4 feet from a heat lamp.  So now there are only 6 naked neck turkens.  At our house this is not such a bad thing, if they are too dumb to come back to the coop the predators get them anyway.  There is only one safe place and that is inside the coop with a functioning automatic chicken door!  Otherwise every predator on the planet likes chicken.  
Annmarie and I went out to the barn and threw out some more straw on the floor for the sheep.  She said it needed to be clean and dry.  I reminded her that prior to us redoing the floor no one ever covered the floor.  The barn is so cozy I would sleep out there!  I would smell like sheep but it would not be a hardship.  The roof still does leak in a few spots, but hopefully I can finish the roof next year and take care of that problem.  We pulled in a couple more long baby feeders so we can feed grain to everyone during the winter.  We give them a little supplement due to the cold and nursing the babies.  We talked about the ideal herd size and are considering thinning the herd down next year.  We have almost 25 ewes now.  We are thinking 15 ewes is ideal.  They would have 20-30 babies every 8 months.  So even at max capacity we would not have more than 80 sheep for a couple of months.  There is talk of bumping the cows up a couple more.  Feeding 7 cows has caused us to use a lot more hay than last year.  The females are all pregnant and the babies are around 250-300 pounds now.  So it is more of a drain than anticipated.  I am sure we are going to have to buy a few tons of hay.  i should probably start asking around soon.  
We saw a nice passive heating system made out aluminum pop cans painted black and a heating tube with small fan to move air through cans.  It was pretty cool.  We are still thinking solar power for the barn is the way to go.  At least a couple more years off.  The roof needs to not leak before we bring in power, the little things do tend to matter.  I am hoping for another good snow storm so I can burn the other two wood scrap piles I have laying around.  There is a small one in the barn lot and the huge one up on the hill.  The one on the hill is going to be very large, house size almost.  
When it got so cold I had Sarah put some hay in the hole in our front yard.  I never got the frost free standpipe installed and I was afraid the pipe would freeze.  We had no straw only hay bales out in the barn.  So Gannon pulled a bale of hay into the yard and broke it up into the hole.  The cows started to lean over the yard fence the next day and ended up in the yard eating my hay!  I had to let Zeke out to chase them out of the yard.  He liked that a lot since he is still cooped up with his bandaged leg.  He was licking it raw after I took the stitch out.  Hopefully next week we can be done with the dressing.  I then had to go over and fix the fence to keep the cows out of our front yard.  The fencing never ends!
The last two lambs are sold and will move onto greener pastures in a couple of days.  So anyone interested in lambs we will have more in 10 months.  

Sheep shenanigans.

I sold some lambs to a fellow coworker.  He did not want to send them to the butcher as he had a way to cut them up himself.  I offered to help kill, clean and skin them.  Annmarie and I were very excited to be getting rid of the last four whethers.  He was busy and had a change of plans a couple of times so it took us a while to get our schedules synced.  The plan was 1200 the day after Thanksgiving.  He called me that morning saying he had to stay over at work till noon and could we do it at 1400?  I said sure but I have to quit at 1700 to go to my other job.  Sarah, Annmarie and I went out that morning and we sorted out four whethers and put them out in the new momma area.  I tried to stick them in the barn but they kept leaping over four foot doors.  Sarah and I set up buckets, knives and a bucket of hot bleach water to sterilize the stainless steel table and clean off knives.  My coworker showed up after only driving by then entrance to the place once.  We went to catch the whethers and the little boogers pushed by the edge of the gate and got out with the main herd.  We had to take Zeke off of injured reserve (he has a foot lac that he keeps pulling the stitches out of) and chase all the sheep back into the barn.  Once in the barn it was decided to just catch two whethers at a time and kill them immediately so we did not have to keep catching them.  I was game to try the technique of slicing the carotid arteries with a fillet knife without cutting the trachea.  Just insert the knife behind the trachea all the way through and turn it sideways so the animals bleed out.  There was no great spot so we just put them up on the ledge and hung their heads out the barn window.  This technique worked good until the last one then I accidently knicked the trachea and i ended up covered in blood.  

We carried them over to the skinning pole and commenced with the messy work.  Trouble was it took us an hour to do the first part, so we only had two hours to go.  I am not a professional butcher.  I am capable but not quick.  At 1700 we still needed to finish skinning one animal.  I had to run in and get ready for work.  Sarah had to run to the boneyard and drop off a set of entrails so we could toss the second set in a bucket.  As she is driving through the gate I heard a crunch.  I was hollering across the field not to dent the new pickup.  We decided she should wait till the next morning to make the second trip to the boneyard.  She stayed out and helped clean up and carry carcasses to the vehicle while I got ready for work.  

To top it off, we still have two more whethers!  The second time around we found two more, we obviously need to update the spreadsheet.  The lucky tag numbers were 24, 30, 34, and 32.