Ready or not winter is here!

Barn lot fence almost ready for wire.

The weatherman said we were going to get a doozy of a winter storm.  For once, they were right.  It got very cold and dumped seven inches of snow in a 24 hour period.  It has been mighty frigid since then, getting below zero several nights.  Add in some wind and it is downright unpleasant to be outside. 

On day two of the freeze before the snow I spent the last two hours of daylight attempting to get ready for winter.  I put the mule back in the old lamb shed and parked the tractor under cover next to it.  I put away all the hoses and finished getting the barn ready.  I also managed to pound in the four T posts needed for my cross fence in the barn lot.  It was not easy, each post got about 40 strikes to pound it in the ground 10 inches.  One more day and I never would have gotten the posts in the ground.  I had dressed very warmly with my insulated overalls and jacket, and vest and coat and insulated gloves.  I was dripping in sweat!  I forgot that if I am going to be doing physical labor outside I need to be almost too cold when I leave the house.  Once the sweat starts up you don’t get overheated and sopping wet.  The only caveat is you have to keep working hard or you will get cold! 

Today, I went out first thing to let the sheep out of the barn.  Now that winter is here we are locking the sheep up in the barn every night.  We only feed at night due to having the most time at night.  First thing in the morning we only have time to open the barn up.  We just fill the feeders up with the allotted food at night.  Annmarie had accidently left the momma/baby area door open so the sheep were mixed together.  Zeke and I resorted and ended up with an extra pregnant momma in the baby area.  She will be fine.  Zeke is doing great with the sheep.  Everyone has a routine and they stick to it.  Zeke only got to push the sheep into the barn before the snow.  Now the sheep are in the barn before dark waiting to be fed.  He gets to run up to the barn door and stare in at the sheep.  No chasing them into the barn.  We bring Zeke into the barn with us and make him guard the entrance to the hay room. This keeps the sheep away and lets you keep the door open so you can go in and out freely with the pitchfork.  I have two pitchforks with shortened handles that make it easier to move the hay around inside the barn.  As soon as you move a bale of hay Zeke jumps in the hole looking for mice to kill.  He has learned that is part of his job.  He can move down one side of the barn with the sheep running all around and doesn’t break his down command.  He still has issues with the cows listening to him.  We tried to move cows around today for practice and it was a total failure.  This is the reason the cross fencing on the barn lot is so important. 

The cows will not go into the square pen easily, but they do like the barn lot.  So we are going to open up the barn lot gate, run the cows into the new pen, shut the door and then run them into the square pen for sorting.  It should make sorting them easy.  We have plans to install some chutes and small pens in that area to sort the cows easier but we are still working on that plan. 

I got all the fencing installed today and went to Pendleton for gate mounts so it could be installed.  I set up the gate so you have to swing the existing gate on the barn out to meet the added gate this leaves a 30 foot opening for when we are not using it as a sorting area.  Plus, I didn’t have to buy another gate.  I also moved two of the feeder panels behind the old lamb shed onto the front of the lean-to that used to shelter the lambs and momma sheep.  We are going to sort out the 6 month old female cows (2) and sell our six month old bull.  We will house our two young heifers and another person’s young heifer till late spring then we will turn them out with our bull.  That will give us five mothers next year.  We are still discussing whether to purchase three more next year.  We will decide that in the spring. 

We are not using the jugs inside the barn.  The new momma/baby area accomplishes the same thing and the animals can go get their own water!  We will see how things go for the next couple of years.  It may be that we end up removing the jugs if not needed and opening the barn up more for the larger herd.  Who knows at this point. 
Our collapsible cow large bale feeder is way cool.  It is composed of four semicircular pieces all bent in the middle.  The cows can push the sides in as the hay gets eaten.  It will totally collapse and still stay upright.  The cows don’t waste any feed and it doesn’t rot.  The best part was we got it on clearance and only paid $300 for it.  It is great.  We may have to have another for the barn lot. 
Barn lot cross fence completed!

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