Walk in closet proceeding.

Walk in closet built in dressers

Our walk in closet is slowly progressing.  Annmarie and I have decided that both of our built in dressers block the electrical outlets I had installed.  I am going to just move them up to the top of the dressers so we can still use them.  The wires are coming from the attic so it should be very easy for me to install two quick outlets.  I am hoping to get that done in a couple of weeks. I believe I have all the supplies at the house already.  Every day when we get home we run up to the closet to see if the cabinet maker was at the house!  It is progressing nicely, not as quickly as Annmarie would like but the work is very good and way faster than I was getting it done.  The cabinet maker came by today to make measurements and I happened to be home.  He told me he had some ideas on how to finish up the room but wanted to talk to Annmarie.  I don’t even know the ideas!  He never even voiced them to me.  It is fairly obvious who gave him his down payment.  He did say the drawer hardware and closet rods would be here next week and once installed we could start hanging clothes.  I sure hope so, because we have clothes every where.  We did agree that every item of clothing had to be inspected and sorted for giveaway before going into our new closet.  We have too many clothes. 

Drawers with faces

Sprout and Mouse have been crawling through the wide spaces in this gate.  Today I backed it with wire so neither one could sneak out of the yard.  Mouse is still in the front yard, but Zeke is finding a hole.  I cannot find it and it is starting to make me frustrated.  I think he is jumping between the upper rail and second rail, but until I catch him its all speculation.  He snuck out of the yard today already.  I have found Sprout and Mouse but no Zeke.  He will show up in a couple of hours.  Damn Dog. 

Wire covered gate so puppy and sprout will stay, hopefully

2015 Annual Farm Report

2015 Annual Farm Summary.

 We sold $870 worth of sheep (17 animals) and $876 worth of eggs.   Our egg income went up $100 despite our profit margin dropping dramatically.  We sold no cows.  There was no alpaca income.

I have several categories so I will give a brief overview of each one and then my rounded expenses.  I am not going to add them all up so the numbers may not add up to my real total but it will be close enough for record keeping purposes.  There is no other neat way to do this.  It worked last year so I am going to stick with it.  I will add a little more description to the categories in hopes that it will make my life easier next year when I go to add the totals up and figure out which category they go in. It did make it a lot easier to figure out my categories this year.  I like this format and it works great for our record keeping needs.
ANIMALS: This covers the baby chickens, medicine for the sheep and chickens, bedding, straw, salt and supplements.  $100
FEED:  This covers all the chicken food, sheep grain and hay. We purchased no hay this year, we were able to trade our grain hay for alfalfa labor to bring hay in from the field ($350) protein supplement for cows ($433), (animals $472, chickens $554):  $1809
GENERAL:  This covers the general supplies, gloves, safety gear, nails, clips, hardware for gates, locks for gates, hinges, chicken coop improvements ($58) supplies ($ 789):  $847
EQUIPMENT:  This covers pickup repair ($300) and upkeep and DMV fee, trailer upkeep, farm dump trailer ($200), new tractor sprayer ($722):  $1308
VET:  This covers Zeke and Mouse ($97) and their tick medicine and dog food ($247):  $344
TRACTOR/SPRAYER:  This covers the tractor maintenance($202), tractor repair ($262),  and fuel, sprayer repair and upkeep and herbicide (milestone $250, 2-4-D $250)(tractor fuel  30 gallons $138), weed eater fuel ($18):  $1120
BUSINESS EXPENSE:  This is for a license renewal, farm insurance we are required to keep now due to number of animals and buildings:  $895
BARN IMPROVEMENTS:  This is for repairing the barn and any improvements.  We lined the horse area with tin to prevent cribbing and cleaned out all the recycled lumber from the hay rooms so we could store hay.  We also extended the overhead walkway in the sheep side of the barn. Supplies ($415), Labor cost of $740):  Total  $1155

FENCING:  This needed its own category.  We have been improving the fencing all over the farm and cross fencing to control our over grazing by the animals.  This covers the posts, wire, railroad ties, gates and labor. We replaced several gates and I purchased wire whenever I found it for a cost of ($3032), labor ($650): $3682
CORRAL:  We knew a new corral was needed and this was our large summer project.  We have a 45 foot chute with three separate corral areas coming off the chute and two internal chute gates.  This was a huge project and it works even better than we expected.  supplies ($3185), labor ($1250):  $4435
IRRIGATION: This covers labor to dig the ditch, equipment rental to dig ditch, pump improvements, sprinkler heads, pump repair.  We dug the entire ditch, created a suction pond and installed a new pump platform this year.  Supplies ($240), backhoe rental ($250), labor ($695):  $1185
ALPACA:  This was a learning curve year for us.  To shear and cut teeth and cut hooves would cost us $50+/animal/year so this year it would have been $450.  We opted to buy the equipment ourselves and teach ourselves how to shear.  It was painful for all involved parties but we spent less money.  I will get the shear blades resharpened and we should be good.  I do plan on building a shearing table.  I think it can be done for less than $350.  We had to purchase shear blades, tarp, rope, repair the shearer for a total cost:  $432
[Total Alpaca lifetime expense is $857]

Expense total:  $17,312 for the entire year.

GRAND TOTAL:  A loss of $15,566

That is a pretty accurate number as I was very good about keeping receipts again this  year for everything.  I may be off a couple of hundred dollars for lost receipts but overall I keep a good filing system and try to get my receipts corralled before they get lost. Our major expenses this year were the fencing and corral.  I had a big speech from last year about how I was cutting expenses.  Honestly we are getting there.  One person can now sort the sheep, one person can sort the cows, one person can feed the animals, one person can take care of the chickens.  This has been our goal all along.  This year we will get the old tractor up and running so I can get hay from the field with it and just need help loading it into the barn. 
We did use two rubber bands on castration and had no accidental rams last year.  We killed our ram and will be buying a new one this spring.  We have about 13 spring whethers for sale and another 30 lambs this fall.  I will be raising the price of lambs to $75/each.  The butcher raised his cut/kill/wrap price also but this is still a really good deal on lamb.


 We are now feeding eight cows and have two newborn calves less than a month old.  We will be getting three more babies in April.  Our damn bull got in with the heifers early last year so we are off on our times.  One of the babies is the bull’s granddaughter so he CANNOT breed her.  We may even sell her at six months for someone else to raise up.  I have not checked the gender on the second baby.  Its only a few days old.  We will be selling two cows this fall (we may eat one!) so that will help also. 
 I want to do some more work on the platform in the barn, keep extending it.  I definitely need to raise the two remaining jug walls another two feet.  I said I would do that last year and did not.  We wanted to use one of them and the ewe was over the side no sooner than I had the door shut.  It needs to happen this year.
 Fencing has again become a priority.  It never changes. I want to subdivide the lower pasture next to the back creek.  I want to replant that 2-3 acre field in Sainfoin.  I would like to see how it will grow and it will only cost about $200 for seed.  I need to run a fence up the back hillside to add more grazing ground and I would like to divide the back hillside at the apple tree up the hill also.  This did not get done last year and I would like to this year.  The corral project chewed up a lot of time. The corral turned out amazing and is everything we wanted plus some more we didn’t know we needed.  We used one of the pens last month for a newborn calf and her momma for a week and it was great!    I did get the front fence up and done last year.  This year the big things are to raise and level the old house (shop), then create a single main room and reskirt the building.  I also want to create a rock wall along the barn to retain the dirt so it doesn’t wash away.  I need to fence off the lower pasture down by the irrigation pump so I can replant that field.  My upper prime pasture is looking good.  All this spring rain is doing it good.  It should be ready by mid summer for the animals to graze on.  I need to be careful to not let them over graze it this year.  I also want to split the back hillside in two places.  Once right behind our house and another down by the apple tree.  This would allow me to get some separation from the bull so he would have to go through multiple fences to get to a heifer.  This should work to keep him in check. 
I have five gates and about 15 railroad ties with all the needed T posts and fencing supplies.  I may need to purchase T post fence clips.  

It’s going to be an interesting year.   


2015 Annual chicken summary

I know everyone has been waiting with baited breath for my 2015 chicken summary.  I made $289, ($473 less than last year but an actual profit for two years running!).  My annual expenses were $587 ($192 more than last year, losing two sets of chicks cost me over $60 plus I had to pay to raise them and I used more feed).  I purchased 1990# of chicken feed an increase of 490# over last year.  My average laying hens for the year were 22 hens (an increase of 3.5 hens).   I collected on average 8.9 eggs/day (a decrease of 0.1 eggs/day over last year) for a hen productivity of 41% for the year (an 8% decrease).  The hens consumed 0.61 lbs of feed/egg produced (0.16 lb/egg more than last year but almost identical to the year before).  It cost me $0.14/egg in feed expenses (5 cents/egg more than last year)for a total feed cost of $1.83/doz ($0.75/doz  more than last year).  My actual cost per dozen with all expenses added is $2.20/doz ($0.77 more than last year).  I collected 3259 eggs for the year.  I averaged 164 lbs feed/month used. My cost was in feed this year.  The surprising part is I purchased 2000lbs of feed on sale half way through the year.  I easily could have spent another $100 on food if I had not been searching for sales.  I have enough feed left over to get me to mid year.  Its why I don’t want to buy any right now.  I don’t want the feed to get too old, it loses nutritional value.  The good news is this is my second profitable year.  The bad news is feed costs are a direct contributor to my lowering the bottom line.  I am already buying in bulk so I cannot lower that any more.  I did have some chickens laying outside the coop and had to throw out those eggs.  I will need to fix the chicken wire around the coop that the sheep have torn away from the posts.  I will need to add a layer of sheep fencing inside the chicken yard to catch the panicked baby sheep when they get stuck in the chicken yard.  This will let me lock the chickens up in the coop for a few days in a row to teach them to use the nesting boxes again.  I should be doing this about every three months for three days in a row. 
I will go out this next weekend and cull all the boys except one rooster.  I cannot have any freeloaders throwing off my numbers!! 
I am still very happy with a profit!  Annmarie was sure the chickens would never pay for themselves. 

House progress

Spring is coming.

Custom drawers soon.

The weather is definitely changing.  It is starting to rain fairly frequently and I am only scraping off a light frost on the car windows at 0400.  I am not sure we really had a winter.  It didn’t really feel like it.  We have a whole lot of grain hay left.  The sheep are not starving as they are really picking through it and not really eating much of the stalk.  Its super dry and needed to be baled a little earlier to keep the green in it.  I just feed a lot of it and realize that the early summer barn cleanout is going to take a while.  I always hire this out to some lucky teenager.  I am not sure who it is going to be this year, time will tell. 
Zeke is getting out of the front yard.  We have come home twice and he was gone.  Mouse will be in the yard but no Zeke.  Unfortunately, that has meant Zeke stays on the run while Mouse gets to run around the yard all day.  It doesn’t seem fair but Zeke is pretty sneaky when it comes to getting around a fence.  He made a mistake on Friday though, he showed me his sneak out hole!  He literally gets in the creek drops his belly down in the water and crawls under the fence straddling the front creek.  I don’t have the fence down in the water because the fence catches live detritus and builds a dam.  It looks like I am going to have no choice if I want to keep Zeke in the yard.  I need to cut a small panel that will drop down into the water and I can remove it easily to clean out the detritus. 

Our custom walk in closet is making progress.  The three drawer inserts magically appeared in our closet last week.  I am hoping this means the drawers are done also.  After that, its hanging shelves, closet rods and some trim pieces.  I am hoping two more weeks before we are finished.  Once it is done then the great clothes purge of 2016 will ensue.  Both Annmarie and I will be doing our part.  We want to get rid of our dressers. 

I have only one job now, so I started back in on the house.  I installed the grey colored outlets in our kitchen.  They look very nice.  I went to do the three light switches put the grey ones were only single pole and I needed double pole.  I ordered the correct ones and they should be here in two weeks.  I saved all the outlets so I could use them elsewhere.  I will need outlets for the rental and the old house, same with switches. 

Old outlets

New outlets

Feeding time

Tethered learning

I have to say that feeding the animals can be a chore.  When everyone needs feeding it takes me over an hour to get to all the different critters.  This may seem like a long time but surprisingly it can be pretty relaxing.  Now that all the sheep have had babies its just a matter of wading in and getting hay in all the bins then shooing the sheep away from the grain feeders long enough to throw in a stream of grain.  They will literally mob you when they know you have grain.  If you are not careful you will end up on the ground under a pile of sheep going for the treats.  They do not care where you are in that mad scramble to eat more grain than anyone else.  The horses just want their grain.  They don’t really care about the hay and the price of the grain is being petted from above.  They try to lean away and still eat the treat but it is not possible.  They know this but still try and lean away.  We just keep petting them, they are calm enough they just keep eating.  They are not real big on something coming at them from above. 
I need the dogs to keep the cows out of the machine shop while I am dragging a large bale out with the tractor.  Otherwise, the cows get into the hay and start tearing it up.  Zeke keeps them at bay.  The puppy, Mouse, does not like the tractor but is stuck to Zeke with the harness so he is getting used to it.  The alpaca get a few flakes of hay and then it is off to check on the chickens.  My baby chickens are starting to lay.  I have a had a few tiny eggs in the last couple of weeks.  Pretty quick I am going to have to thin out all the boys and only keep one. 

Today, I worked on the front fence some more.  I thought it was dog proof, but Sprout proved me wrong.  I have to put some wire over the gate next to the trash shed/out house.  He can squeeze through the slats in one place.  Mouse has been staying off the run and in the yard.  We are still putting Zeke on the run.  He is far more persistent at finding holes in the fence.  He will also jump through the fence between the barb wire strands.  It cuts him but he doesn’t seem to care, hence the reason he is on the run and the puppy is not. 
We went out to feed the new alpaca some bread and apples.  Only the new black colored one would eat from Annmarie’s hand.  No one else was willing to try it.  I did feed our bull some apple.  He is such a good boy.  We had a second calf today!! I saw it when I got off work this morning.  It is doing good, I have seen it eat a couple of times and it walked the length of the driveway once today. 
I spent about an hour today picking up old metal pieces of scrap in front of the machine shop and over by where the old blacksmith shop was located.  Every spring I do this, the metal just seems to float to the top of the ground.
Mouse has been able to go out with us without the buddy leash to Zeke the last couple of days.  He will listen to us and return to us even with the animals present.  This is a first big step for him.  We need to be able to call him off the animals at any point. 

Our walk in closet is starting to come along.  The cabinet builder was building drawers the end of last week so hopefully they will be installed this week.  It would be nice to have a useable closet again.  Our clothes are starting to stack up all over the house. 

I have
New walk in custom closet in progress

Dog proofing yard

Dog proofing front fence

We decided it was time to make our front yard dog escape proof.  This seems like an almost impossible task but the overhead run is causing a boredom issue.  Both border collies have decided it is very important to dig multiple holes to China.  Our front yard dog run area looks like a prairie dog den.  There are holes everywhere.  It is not safe to walk through that portion of the yard at night.  We decided to go with a 12 g woven wire and I cut it to fit between each 4×4 post and shortened it to only go up to the second wooden railing.  I also dug a channel in the gravel and buried the fence a few inches.  All this is to keep Sprout, the little dog, inside the yard.  He won’t stay out during the day when it is hot outside but it would be nice to let him out when the weather is perfect and not worry about him sneaking off.  Our hope is with the whole yard to roam the border collies will not get bored.  This is the hypothesis, the test will be when I get the yard done. 

I hope to have the fence completed in a week.  Its good to have a goal.

Now that we have separated a cow from the herd, the bellowing has begun.  The bull is hollering because he cannot get to the heifer, she is hollering because she is not with the herd.  Its going to be a long night.

Close up shot of front fence

Cow wrastling.

I had plans this morning, at this moment I cannot remember exactly what they were but I absolutely had them. No more.  Just as Annmarie was leaving for church, all dolled up, I received a phone call from my mother-in-law stating there was a new baby calf!  She was worried the new momma cow was going to push the baby through her fence and we would have another dead baby. She then got off the phone quickly because she saw Annmarie stopping to look at the baby and she anticipated me getting another phone call. Annmarie called five seconds later to tell me there was a new baby!

Brand new calf, first of 2016

She then stated that the momma was pulling away from the baby and it was only able to latch on for 15-20 seconds at a time because momma kept moving around. This promoted a cancellation of church attendance and all of us putting on work clothes so we could get the momma and baby into one of our new fancy corrals.

I read the results of a medical study that stated if you consume FOUR cups of coffee daily you will extend your life. I have been on board with this finding and diligently pursue every coffee opportunity possible. I made coffee in thermos mug so I could drink it when we went out to herd the momma. As this is a health goal, I skipped breakfast in light of this life extending nectar. There was a slight amount of grumbling that I was taking too long to get ready.

 We all exited the house and moved toward the intended target.  Sarah and I blocked off the escape routes and Annmarie had to walk out into the wheat field to get behind momma and baby. The momma had taken her baby down the long narrow driveway. Annmarie was unable to push the momma. The baby just wanted to lay down and rest. So we sent Sarah off to get the pickup. This seemed like a reasonable option as Sarah was the closet one to the pickup. She drove the pickup up to the start of the driveway and just stopped.  I had to walk down and ask her to turn it around so we could back down the driveway.  She then proceeded to tell me the driver side window was broken and would not roll down.  She then backed the pickup up toward the pair with me sitting on the tailgate. The goal is to push the momma away just long enough for me to snatch the baby then hold it as bait to get her to follow us to the barn lot. You have to back up right next to the calf and it only works in the first couple of days after birth, otherwise the calf runs off. I snagged the calf without getting horned as overprotectiveness is a problem in this breed.  The whole bait thing did not work. The baby would not make a single peep and Sarah kept letting the momma cow get in front of the pickup so she could not see her baby.  Eventually, Annmarie drove the pickup, after rolling down both windows so she could holler at me.

We finally just took the calf up to the corral and put her into the back pen. It is a little girl and since it is the bulls granddaughter we will not be keeping her.  She will be food for someone in 18 months.  We opened up the barn lot, tossed out some feed and herded the cows into the front barn lot. Once everyone was in the pen a bunch of them spooked and ran out.  We only had two left and one was the momma we wanted.  I used the double gate and ran them into the side corral pen. The one who is due any day was crazy and tearing around the pen. Sarah let her out when she rushed the gate with some encouragement. She didn’t like the cow being crazy. Annmarie put the baby in with her and I tossed in some straw for bedding. We hung two hay feeders off the fence and put in six gallons of water and some grain. All this is in hopes that the mother will bond with the baby and we can turn them loose in a week. 

We did a google search and realized it is possible for our single momma cow to drink 20-30 gallons of water a day.  There is no water in the corral so we had to go to town and get some supplies.  We purchased a 40 gallon water trough and a protein block.  While we were there we purchased a small welded wire roll 6 feet high so I can dog proof the new front wooden fence. 

We heard the baby latching on and drinking when we returned.  Our new plan is to put the new momma and baby in with the horses and sheep after we are sure a good bond is present.  We want the bull to breed all the heifers at once.  The two cows that are early are both our yearlings from last year that the bull broke through the fence and got to a couple of months early.  So we would need to keep them separate for the next three months.  This might prove difficult.

New momma and baby area in the corral.

The bull knows she is no longer pregnant, what a guy!