It’s the young ones.

It’s always the young ones that cause the most trouble.  Steve had to take Larry to the Doctor this afternoon, and Sarah is working, so I was up for feeding tonight.  I got out of town later than I had hoped to, and it was closing in on 5:00 by the time I drove down the driveway.  This time of year, that means its beginning to get dark.  There was still plenty of light, and I thought maybe I could even feed without a flashlight.  Then I looked at the back hillside.

The sheep had not gone in.  There they were – little brown moving lumps still just visible.  I was still in my work clothes, with my purse, mail and coffee cup in my hands.  But I have a skilled sheep dog.  I walked over and let Zeke off the run, with the instruction that we were, “going to work.”  That’s his cue to behave and listen.  He also knows that usually means sheep.  He headed to the back hillside and I headed out to the middle of the Ram Pasture to supervise and direct.  All was going well.  Zeke went around the sheep and turned them into the gate like a pro.  He stopped and guarded that gate just like I asked him to.  Then I jinxed it.  I thought, “This is neat.”  Never, ever think something positive before the task is done.  It’s almost as bad as saying it out loud. 

Everything looked good.  The sheep had made the corner through the next gate and were headed to the barn.  I sent Zeke to guard the barn door.  Then I saw it.  A lamb had missed the second gate and was on the wrong side of the fence.  He knew he wanted to be in the barn, but lambs are not exactly critical thinkers, and all he could seem to do was hit that fence trying to get through.  I heaved a sigh, told Zeke to “guard” and set down my stuff (yes, it was still in my hands).  Now, work clothes consist of stacked-heel boots that are not terribly high, but not exactly working boots either, slacks, and a nice sweater.  Not what you would call practical for catching a lamb.  But, I didn’t want to go back inside and chance that he would wander away.  I really thought I could guide him back alongside the fence to the gate to where he could get into the barn.  That was the plan.

The first step was to get Zeke out of the way, so I called him to me.  Remember that he loves babies.  He detoured to see if he could greet the lamb through the fence.  The lamb was not impressed and bolted – back to the corner where he had started.  I thought for a minute that his head was stuck in the fence.  That would have worked for me.  I could have caught him and lifted him over the fence.  I was down to the creek and considering my crossing.  He got free.  And bolted.  At some point in there I got Zeke to the middle of the pasture and laid down.  That lamb ran right in front of him and out to the back corner of the pasture behind the hillside and tried to get through that fence too.

I could see the writing on the wall.  We leave that back gate open because we don’t usually need to close it.  The sheep are in the barn, after all.  I should have closed the gate.  Really, that’s what I should have done.  But I have Zeke.  He’s as good as a gate and easier to move.  I put him in the gate with the “guard” instruction.  That means don’t let the sheep past.  I walk down toward the lamb to push him back towards the barn.  All looks good.  He responds to my presence and moves out of the corner and down the path then he turns sharply left, gives takes three steps and makes a running leap – right over Zeke’s nose and out onto the completely open back hillside.  By this time, it’s full dusk and the fog is starting to set in.  The lamb is exactly the color of a rock, and isn’t making any noise at all.  I give up.  I head inside to change into more suitable clothing and get a flashlight.

While I’m doing that, I’m secretly hoping mama will figure out she’s missing  a baby and come get him while I was gone.  When I came back out, it was immediately clear that hope was not to be realized.  I heard a bleat out on the back hillside. 

There is a tried a true technique when you can’t get a separated single to go back to the herd.  Instead of trying to take the one to the many, it’s often easier to take the many to the one.  So Zeke and I went into the barn to run the sheep out.  We went in and to the back of the barn.  Usually the sheep run right out when we do that.  Of course that’s not usually right after we’ve run them in to feed.  They went towards the door.  And stopped.  Really, you’d have thought their was a fence across the alley.  They would not go any farther.  They just turned and looked at me.  It was back to plan A.

Zeke and I went out to the hillside.  The lamb was starting to get tired, and mom was now at least looking out the door and calling.  He knew where he needed to be.  This time it worked.  Zeke and I were able to guide the lamb along the fence line and into the gate.  He just kept following the flashlight that I aimed in front of him.  Thank heavens he was making noise at this point, or I’d have never found him.  And yes, I closed the gates behind him as he went through.

90 minutes later I have finally finished the 20 minute job of feeding.  It’s leftovers for dinner.

Backsplash done.

Backsplash grouted.

It took me all day, but I got the backsplash completed.  I read the directions on the grout and they wanted me to mix the entire box.  I did not want that so I had to add half the water and about half the grout and mix.  I had to add more grout four times.  I should have stopped at three.  My consistency was not peanut butter, it was more like near frozen lard.  I had to work and work to get it into the spaces.  Lots of back and forth and pressure.  It did not want to come off with a sponge.  It took me over five hours to get it all done.  I had taped and covered the countertop with plastic so I would not get water on those tiles for the required 72 hours.  I am hoping to set the sink on Thursday.  I will be able to get all the drain plumbing parts once I set the sink.  I may be able to reuse what I have by just hacksawing out about three inches of piping. Hard to say without the sink being permanently installed so I can take actual measurements.  We have just about decided our cupboard paint colors.  You can see the paint swatch on taped to tiles in the above picture.  The second color from the top is the upper cabinet and room color and the second color from the bottom is going to be the lower cabinet colors with a white ceiling.  We are still debating the white ceiling, Annmarie wants the ceiling color to be the top swatch color.  Something to get the light to reflect off the ceiling to lighten the room.  The worst part of painting is I have to disassemble my kitchen book shelves so we can paint behind them.  We ordered our outlet covers yesterday online.  Some brass design for all the outlets and switches in the entire kitchen.  Luckily there were only ten covers to buy. 

Other backsplash grouted.

Dwindling hay supply.

Zeke and I went out to feed tonight, our hay is running low so I called about picking up another 2 ton.  I had to leave a message, but hopefully tomorrow I can get that hay to the farm and out for the animals.  This should not be an issue this year with all the extra hay bottoms in production.  As we replant the bottoms in new pasture grass I think that will help our foraging needs greatly.  I had to get eggs again today.  The broody hen had to be tossed out of the same nest box.  She was still not sitting on any eggs!  I am not sure what she thinks she is doing.  I collected this huge green egg, mammoth in size.  It was guaranteed to fill me up for breakfast.  I took them inside and had them sitting on the washing machine, just hanging out while I got a dozen carton down from the shelf.  I opened the carton and started to put eggs into it.  I dropped the huge egg onto another egg and it suicide onto the tile floor!  There was raw egg everywhere.  Another egg down.  I got it all cleaned up and lamented another broken egg. 

Countertop completed

Countertop completed.

More exercise.

Yesterday I finished up the large countertop.  I got an epoxy grout for the countertops, it sucks and it took me all day to scrape the tiles clean with a razor blade.  A day spent cleaning is far nicer than the week I had initially predicted but I did end up with some sore fingers from holding the razor blade.  It is very slow and detailed work to get the tiles perfectly clean. 

I decided a work out was still in order so Zeke and I went outside so I could work on the rock wall.  I started dragging rocks from my stash up on the hill in one of the wheelbarrows hiding behind the wood shed.  The tire lasted three trips before going flat.  I had to start carrying the large rocks by hand, but since I was doing this for the exercise, that was okay.  It just means my rock wall progress is going to be super slow.  I need more dirt to go behind the rocks.  So basically, I need a few days off of work, off of the kitchen and nice and warm so I can drag the tractor onto the back hillside and do some road work so I can get some more dirt for the rock wall.  Since, I have not installed the downdraft fan in the kitchen yet, I don’t see my free time opening up any time soon.  I will continue to dig the starting flat platform all across the hillside both upper and lower walls.  No rocks or dirt required and the weather has thawed out the ground enough to make this possible.  I went and collected eggs from the coop.  I had not gotten them in a couple of days.  There is one of buff orpington chicken that has gone broody.  The problem is she does not lay any eggs and is so dumb that she doesn’t check the nest to see if there are any eggs in it.  There are no eggs, not even a wooden one!  I toss her out with the other chickens and she won’t even stand up.  She just sits on the ground clucking.  I did not bring an egg container so I used my ball cap to collect eggs in.  Unfortunately, when shutting the external coop door I dropped and broke one on the ground.  Once inside the house I tried to put the ball cap on the washing machine and another egg rolled out onto the tile floor.  Two down and out!  I don’t count them until they are cleaned so my mishandling lowers the chickens production rate.  I try not to drop them. 

Second countertop and backsplash installed

Countertop ready for completion.

I finished the countertop and backsplash today.  I added some unused tiles to hold my two triangles in place while they set up.  The backsplash is looking pretty good.  My outlets got moved to the left about an eighth of an inch so I hope I won’t have any difficulty when I have to screw them back into place.  I need to get some longer screws before that can happen.  I will start applying grout tomorrow.  The tiles have to set up for 24 hours before I can apply grout, but the other countertop has not had any work done on it for a week.  I can start in on it in the morning.  The grout process takes more time and lots and lots of cleanup.  The whole thing is starting to come together.  I will need to take down my spacer boards around the window before I grout and apply some tape to the walls so I don’t make a bigger mess.  I am looking forward to getting Annmarie back in the kitchen.  Once everything is grouted I will be able to install the sink.  I cannot wait to have the sink back.  I think I want the dishwasher back more than the sink.  Doing dishes in the laundry room in the deep sink is less than ideal, it sucks.  I had to put the plastic down over the countertops so I didn’t dribble any mastic on the granite when I installed the backsplash.  Not that I dribbled or oozed any mastic!  

Countertop completed along with backsplash

I have been working out again, but it always pains me to do it.  I want something else to come out of it besides me exercising and feeling better.  I was able to kill two birds with one proverbial stone today by going outside and recommencing work on the back hillside rock wall.  I have a flat shovel/narrow spade like tool that makes a nice horizontal spot into the hillside.  I dug a few horizontal stretches and started moving the large rocks that were already on the hillside into place for the lower wall.  I want to have two tiers along the back hillside.  My bigger problem currently is I am going to need some soil to back fill this area.  I need to get the old two ton dump bed truck working.  The only problem with that is I need to install $1200 worth of tires, a new battery and some new wires and spark plugs before I can even see if the truck will run.  I know the tires need to go on the truck regardless but if the engine doesn’t work then I need to replace the engine.  The only good thing is it is a Chevy so the engines are highly interchangeable. I will steal a little more dirt from the back hillside as it has collapsed a little and narrowed enough it would be hard to drive on the road.  We do need a road along the back fence that doesn’t force you to drive sideways and almost lean into the fence.  It was unbelievably warm today.  Almost 60 degrees outside, I worked in a long sleeve shirt only and had sweat just pouring off me.  I was so thirsty I went to the creek and drank ice cold stream water.  So if I get sick in the next week we will know why.  Its fast moving water and ice cold, I doubt there is anything growing in it.  It tasted fabulous!   



Second rock wall started.

Sheep need attention

Sheep wandering

Dug out creek.

I did it, I managed to take care of the sheep all by my lonesome.  All the changes we have been making to the barn are geared toward allowing one person (and the dog) to take care of all the sheep needs.  Our new lamb and mom area is proving to be very useful.  I was able to shut the outer door, set up all the tagging and banding supplies on the stairs and start catching lambs for tagging and banding.  I had to watch the mommas first so I could see which babies belonged to whom.  I have a day planner for 2015 that all the babies and sold animals are being logged into.  I need an accurate paper record this year.  I was able to crouch down with my back against the wall and lay the baby upside down on my legs and tag it and band it.  We had two little girls and three boys.  Every boy now gets TWO rubber bands just in case one of them breaks.  It makes it harder to get on but I don’t want any extra rams this year.  I am trying to put the tags farther toward the head but have nicked a blood vessel in the ear twice now.  I had to chase everyone out of the nursery area and into the main section of the barn with everyone else. 

The creek through the barn lot is looking very good.  I have been spending 15-20 minutes with my new rubbers (tall waterproof boots) digging in the creek to get the channel clear.  It is starting to pay off.  I need to clean up the upper half from this picture.  Once the creek bed dries out a little I will plant some pasture grass seed along the banks.  I spent a few hours cutting tile for the kitchen backsplash.  It is hard to believe it is January, the weather is way too warm.  My grapes that I have started in a five gallon bucket on the breeze porch are starting to bloom.  I will need to get them in the ground this spring and protect them from the domestic and wild animals.  Everyone loves grape leaves. 

It goes on and on.

Sunset

In between shifts at the paying job, I have been plugging along on the tiling job.  I cut two paper templates today and then cut my weird triangles for the countertop.  I still need to apply mastic to both pieces but I will do that when I start installing the backsplash.  It only took 1.5 hours to get two triangles the correct size, no big deal.  I started cutting the backsplash and lady luck was not with me this time.  My outlet holes are directly in the middle of an intact tile.  I tried to use the multitool, but it just kept jumping all over the place and was not piercing through the tile.  I do have a carbide blade on it so it probably would have gotten through eventually.  I decided to break out the diamond hole saw I thought I needed but didn’t.  I did need it!  I just kept drilling holes until I had the outlet hole mostly done then used the multitool to clean up the edges.  It only took me about 30 minutes to do one outlet hole.  Luckily, I only have one more.  I have decided that I just need to work on it every day.  It is coming along.  I am hoping to get it all cut and installed the next time I work on it.  I need it to be done so I can go outside and spend about two days burning tumble weeds.  They are starting to pile up and the ground is still very wet so now is a great time to deal with them. 

Our sheep have not had a baby in almost a week. They are very spread out in the birthing process, but Annmarie and I have decided this is a good thing.  Instead of dealing with 50 babies in a single month we deal with them over a four month period.  It works out better for us and we pretty much have only about 3-4 months out of the year where we do not have babies.  Its easier to keep track of the little ones when they are not all tearing around and all the same size.  I have slowly been digging out the creek in the barn lot to make it narrower and get it down to its gravel bed and not this slow muddy mess.  It is starting to look good.  We do need to dig out the front creek again the entire length, but it is painful.  It is kinda on my list but not a real priority.  I need to go tag and band the five new babies in the nursery pen so their mothers and them can be let out with the main herd.  I will do that this week.  Its easy to tell if a baby has been tagged or not, we just look for the droopy left ear!  I always tag them in the left ear and as babies their ears are not strong enough to stand up with a tag in place.  Sometimes, it is harder to see the tag, but the saggy ear is a dead giveaway. 
 

Backsplash cutting in progress.

Holy countertop.

Not quite completed…

I marked all the tiles, numbered them and drew up a schematic so I knew where every piece went.  I then laid the tiles out all over the floor in some semblance of order and mixed up a large bucket of mastic.  I started on the right side of the countertop.  Laying in the first six tiles then working my way around the front all the way over in front of the sink.  I started to try and fit in a couple of triangle cut pieces.  The large missing triangle was the first casualty.  I needed to pick it back up and add some more mastic to get the tile the correct height.  I used my suction cup lifter and got the tile six inches off the countertop when it let go and broke a 2 inch piece off the tile!  I stuck the extra mastic on anyways and attempted to piece the tile back together in place!  I could still see the break.  I had to dig it out with my pocket knife. 

I mixed up another batch of mastic and stuck all the tiles down.  The back missing smaller triangle had a couple of gaps as it was not a smooth straight cut.  I said good enough and when the wife got home she looked at the countertop.  I dug it out with my pocket knife also.  I then scraped all the mastic up and now need to sharpen my pocket knife and cut two more custom tiles.  I am thinking about making a paper template for both holes so I get them right.  I only have five tiles left to get it right.  Luckily, I think I can cut both triangles from one tile so I have at least five more tries.  I will cut the backsplash in a couple of days.  Luckily, the backsplash is far more forgiving and once it is up and stuck on then I can grout everything.  I still need to crawl under the counter top on the other side and cut off the screws so the cutting board will slide back into its compartment.