Outside chores during weather break.

scrap metal pile on south side of machine shop.
Sunday, I had a couple of hours of decent weather and went out to work on straightening the used T posts I got from the scrap yard.  There were a couple I could not straighten.  I just tossed them in the scrap metal pile.  Every time I go outside and the ground is thawed out I pick up more scrap metal.  Sometimes I think it grows under the ground and just erupts from the soil when it is ready to be harvested.  Every spring I find lots of metal and start building piles all over the farm.  I work on it every time I am outside.  Sometimes 5-10 minutes other times a few hours of just picking up trash, old wood pieces and scrap metal.  It is starting to pay off, the place is looking much cleaner.  The scrap metal still astounds me in shear quantity.  I have five growing piles all around the farm not including the little pieces that get thrown in the rock cribs. 
Zeke is watching the cows. 

My T post pile consists of crooked and sorta straight.  The sorta straight ones are the ones I have bent back into shape (kinda) and I think they will be able to be pounded back into the ground without crumpling.  It is a slow process but I save $4 for every one I can use so I keep at it.  These will go down by the back creek for a subdivision of the lower bottom.  I have all the cord and wooden stakes to mark out a new fence line, but I am waiting until all the posts are ready and the ground is ready before putting up a string fence.  Why not just start pounding stakes in the ground?  The spacing is never right and the fence is not straight.  I use some wooden stakes and light nylon cord to mark the fence line then use a tape measure and some marking paint to paint a mark every 10 feet.  That is where the T posts go.  This lets me layout the design.  This fence line will have two jogs (bends) and two cow panels near the creek that will allow the animals to get water year round.  No troughs or buckets needed for watering.  I have managed to get every subdivided fence to touch water so far.  That is going to go away as I subdivide further up the creek.  Those will not have water readily available so we will just have to keep them open to the barn lot so the animals can come back and get water when needed.  

I have a fencing budget of $2000 and spray budget of $1000 for this year.  I will have to purchase some RoundUp this year to kill down the driveway and fence lines.  Last year I only used 2-4-D.  The animals have helped reduce our herbicide use dramatically.  I have held off purchasing any fencing supplies until the weather improves.  I am itching to get some fence done, but Mother Nature is not cooperating.  It will take 70 T posts, 8 wooden posts, two 18 foot or 20 foot gates and one 4x4x8 board to fix the fence out by the road around the old barley field.  It is falling over and will be much easier to repair before it is all crumpled up on the ground.  The old barley field already has 50% of the fence repaired.  If I can get the rest repaired then after the wheat is harvested we can hopefully run animals on it until it is ready to be replanted.  This will help us extend out the pasture ground.  After that the lower pasture addition will need one 6 foot metal gate.  The back fence on the orchard needs retightened and another two gates added.  Also it will take the addition of three H braces to be built.  Lastly is a new fence in the upper pasture just past the old well.  It will take the addition of two 16 foot metal gates and a bunch more used T posts that have not been straightened or collected from the scrap yard yet.  The scrap yard is collecting them and woven wire for me again.  Everyone else is trying to get rid of it and I keep adding more!

On a plus note my chickens just up and decided to start laying eggs again.  Who knows why, we are getting 6-12 eggs/day.  This is good news!  I am still not sure I will be positive again for the year.  After having to buy eggs in the grocery store I may have to raise the price again on a dozen farm fresh eggs.  I am going to hold off until later to recalculate the overall cost of production. 

Sheep chores all caught up.

Saturday was catch up day.  My nephew came over and we went out to catch up on the sheep. Nice thing about going out early is they are still locked up in the barn.  We had multiple babies to tag and it was time to band the baby boys.  They were old enough that I should not have had any trouble banding them.  We keep the rubber bands in the house to protect them from the temperature extremes and sunlight.  After last year, we buy a new little bag of 100 bands every year.  We started with tagging all the babies.  We ended up with a couple of babies that had not been written down in the database.  After everyone was tagged we started catching all the little boys to make sure they were banded or neutered already.  No big surprise after we banded a few they were so much slower than everyone else we kept catching them!  We finally had to start separating out all the boys so we could tell who was already banded.  We did find one oops.  One of the first babies had an undescended testicle.  We could feel it under his skin but there was no way to band it as he had been banded before.  We wrote the tag number down so we could keep track of him. 
 Our ram did great last year all the babies are his.  He is still a little skittish and won’t let us touch him but he is a good breeder and we have been happy with all the babies this year.  We have 28 babies from 20 ewes with 1 ram for a total of approximately 49 sheep.  I have not entered all the tags into the spreadsheet and this count only counts the ewes that have birthed.  I believe we have 3 more ewes that still have not given birth. This sounds like an odd problem to have to not know how many animals you have, but the sheep are very hard to count.  I believe this is where the saying came from about counting sheep when you are trying to go to sleep.  It seems that just when you think you have the count right another sheep pops up or they move around and you have to start all over.  So we are close…
After we finished up with the sheep we moved over two ton of hay from the machine shop into the barn.  We feed the sheep and horses from the barn and the cows from the machine shop.  The cows have been going into the machine shop and eating the hay from the side over a concrete wall.  They had eight bales all torn open.  We moved the hay out of reach and filled the cattle feeders.  There is going to be just enough hay to get us through the winter.  I think we will need 15 ton for this next winter. 

Snow gone in two days!

Rebuilt rock crib.

I went to all that trouble to move the snow and it is gone!  No more snow.  In our world this sudden warming can be quite the problem.  I have four fences that go across the creek.  When we went to bed last night there was a strong chinook wind blowing.  The back creek was still covered in snow and there was no running water in it.  As soon as I got up this morning I turned on the back porch light to see if the creek was running and indeed it was.  This means the fences have to be lifted out of the creek bed.  They have to sit directly on the creek bed when there is no water present or the sheep crawl under them.  The sheep will jump the creek and drink from it but they will not wade through it to crawl under a fence.  I anticipated this not being as easy as it sounds.  At the first crossing I ended up refilling about half the rock crib and retightening some upper fencing before even pulling the panels out of the creek.  I ended up fixing three sections of fence, repairing two rock cribs and lifting fence panels from four separate creek crossings. 

Poop covered dog!  Does he looked ashamed?

Zeke snuck away while I was working.  I called but he stayed gone for over 30 minutes.  When he came back it looked like someone had rubbed cow poop over his entire body!  The smell was awful.  He had to stay kinda close the rest of the time outside.  Not too close due to the smell.  After the creek crossings were fixed we walked down to the school house to look at the back irrigation ditch.  The horses on the school house pasture have eroded part of the ditch wall and it is leaking into the pasture.   Down near the school house it is just running out into the pasture.  I need to get down there with the tractor and dig some more ditch.  The trouble is it is very muddy and slick and I am not sure the tractor would do well. It needs to dry out some first.  The trouble with that is I don’t want the weather to dry out until late spring.  I want us to get snow or rain. 

There is a block in the creek from the apple tree.  One of the large dead branches fell down across the creek and this is forming a natural dam.  All the little branches and leaves and twigs just pack together and form a watertight barrier.  In the summer I am going to have to clear this out with the chain saw and tractor.  I can cut the branches up and snag them out of the creek with the tractor.  This is going to be an impressive dam if the creek doubles in water output. 
I found the remains of another chicken coop?  On the back hillside, down by the large apple tree the skeleton and wire frame from a coop was partially buried.  It was not very big maybe 12 square feet.  I found it when I was making a scrap pile.  Now that I think of it there was a lot of loose metal laying around.  I wonder if there was not an old burn pile there at one time and someone was burning the wood out of the coop?  I bet that was the reason for its location.  I now have another metal pile that will need to be picked up.  There is one down pas the cattails on the lower pasture also.  It is a lot easier to find piles of metal than individual pieces in the summer when the grass is actively growing. 
I had to give the dog a bath when we went in, so he is currently sulking up on the breeze porch.  He can pretend he is lord of all that is visible and snub me at the same time, double points. 


Snow storm in February.  Lots of snow.

Opportunistic feeder.  Doesn’t like to share.

Late last week, Mother Nature decided to finally snow and snow.  We had 18 inches out on the farm.  It just kept coming down!  I managed to shovel the walkway the first two days but then Annmarie and Sarah had to keep it cleared as I was working.  There was so much snow that I started to back the Prius up to parking spot so I could just start the car and mash on the gas to make it down the driveway.  Our nephew fired up the tractor Saturday and scraped the driveway.  I never would have made it down the driveway in the Prius.  The snow was way too deep.

On Sunday, I fired up the tractor and got to try out the new insulated bib overalls Annmarie bought me on Saturday.  They worked very well.  I stayed out on the tractor for 6 hours clearing the driveway.  I only had one near miss.  I was pushing snow down by my mother-in-law’s house and got to close to the plastic fence.  Their is a little hill there that slants toward the fence.  I got the tractor stuck.  I had to go get Sarah and the pickup and pull the tractor out sideways.  We just put the front bucket down and pulled the back end then but the box blade down and pulled the front end.  It took some finagling but we got it out without injuring the fence.  I drove to Pilot Rock in the tractor for fuel and to dig out my parents driveway also.  I figured we were good for another 12 inches of snow. 

Old fence fragment near the Old Hen House

Yesterday when I went out to the barn I forgot to lock the inside gate shut and the sheep had access to the entire hay room all day long.  It was a mess.  I have no one to blame but myself for that mishap.

We had locked the horses back into the barn lot as they were not coming down for food.  They wait by the back door of the hay room for a chance to eat off the floor.  We sweep the loose hay over to the door area so the horses can eat the leftovers.  They still get food in their feeders but they seem to prefer the floor.  More chances to get grain only, I think. 

The life of a chicken.

Would you want to be a chicken?  Even though they do have it easy, following rule #2 it is not safe.  I had another Turken die from natural causes.  Not sure what did it.  I have not lost a single chicken to predators this year yet.  Despite the fact that my chicken door quit working a week ago.  I need to remove it and bring it in so I can cut out the motor and glue in a new one.  It is on the to do list for tomorrow.  It was on for today but I decided to catch up on the blog instead, besides it was snowing and cold all day.  We have not collected a single egg for the last two weeks.  Annmarie had to go buy eggs at the store.  She was not happy about that. 

I don’t know if they are just not laying due to predator harassment, nonfunctioning chicken door, weather changes or just finished molting, all are possibilities.  Another thing could be we have an egg eater.  Since we are not finding the shells in the coop it would have to be an animal that can haul off the eggs.  We had a feral outside cat that did that for a while a few years ago.  I don’t know.  This is very frustrating.  The plan is to fix the chicken door and make sure it functions properly for a few days.  Then plug the heat lamp back in and fill the five gallon drip waterer full of water with the heat lamp warming it so it doesn’t freeze.  I will secure the entire perimeter fence so no chicken can get in or out.  This will only work after I fix the hole in the back of the chicken yard fence that the sheep ripped out during the summer by getting stuck and throwing themselves at the fence.  I would like to keep the chickens penned up for a week.  We can then see if anyone is laying eggs.  Annmarie also suggested I move the chicken camera inside to point at the nesting box entrances so I can see if something is sneaking in.  It has infrared lights on it so I would even be able to see in the dark!  I will try the easy stuff first then go to the camera.  We have to view the camera footage on the computer manually.  It just takes time. 

Annmarie told me eggs are going for $4/doz farm raised and when I was at Safeway over the weekend they had a sign up saying they were out due to a shortage.  So maybe it is not just my chickens…