Yesterday, Phil came out to hit it hard and get that horse area finished. I had managed to get in a good six hours of rock picking in on Friday and we still had more to go. I did get the furthest run from the house completed. This is where the metal hanging gate was going to be attached. I had a brand new green gate and an old painted blue one. The green one is for the machine shed but I opted to use it instead of the blue one. The blue one has peeling paint and needs another coat of paint. Not anything I am going to do soon. Since it is visible from the house I opted to go with the pretty one for asthetical reasons. The blue one will go some where far from the house where no one will car that it has peeling paint. I hung the gate and blocked off the small gap between the gate and the barn with a couple of vertical 2×6 boards. Once hung I had to cut a woven panel to wire to the gate. I don’t buy the straight small animal gates as they are more money. Besides for $25 I can add panels to any gate. The price savings is worth it.
Phil had to collect around 12 loads of rocks. One trip he asked me if I had heard him screaming I said no. Apparently he had overturned a rock with a hornets nest under it and they took offense. He said he had ten of them hanging on his shirt when he took it off he managed to not get stung! We kept filling in rocks. It was like a black hole of rocks, just when you thought it was full more rocks would fit.
Next up I needed to drive four T posts into the ground. Oh boy, I managed to get three pounded in and my failure we moved I’ve a foot and Phil managed to get it pounded in. It rotated almost 90 degrees due to some rocks. It was good enough. We stretched out some old woven wire and the three pieces of old barn wire that were there before. Next up was a short stretch on top of the rocks on the up hill side. I opted to use the old version oven wire section we had just removed. It is about 8 inches shorter than the woven wire I used everywhere else. This height difference caused me some decorative issues later. When we ran the woven wire across the horse area and over to the gate I noticed that the wooden upright posts were still a little loose. So I decided to use some 2×6 boards across the top. I still have some left over from the unit of wood I purchased two years ago. Once we saw how much that reinforced the fence we put it everywhere!! I put it six inches above the woven wire. Hence the problem, one measly section was shorter which caused an asthetic disalignment for practical reasons. I was informed that this discord would need to be corrected when the foreman went out to look at our progress.
We spent ten hours out in the heat and got everything done but the asthetically pleasing additions necessary to complete the job. My big mistake was in not moving the new kitchen table into the house after lunch. I was so tired and sore it felt like I had been caned everywhere from the waist up and we had to carry 175# table set into the house from our driveway. Not a small feat and one that threw me over into perpetual agony for the night.
I will get the fence fixed in the morning.
I had visions of another solid day of fencing. I knew that I needed to make the asthetic changes dictated by the wife first. I had a friend come out to help today. We will henceforth know him as “TJ Hooker”. The first thing we did was add the two boards dictated by fashion. Once those were in I decided to continue the slanted board down to the water crossing. This ties the whole fence together and prevents the fence from skewing sideways. We were able to find a bowed board that fit nicely as the uprights are not aligned. This did manage to pass muster in the afternoon. We may have to fill in the triangle section with paneling if Zeke starts to leap out this hole. We are going to hold off and wait for this event to occur before we fill in the opening.
My arms were killing me after this little bit of overhead work. Luckily, fencing was not on the agenda for the day.
Last night our sheep buyer called and said he is ready to pick up lambs. Unfortunately, we don’t know how many are ready to sale. So TJ and I finished cleaning out the barn. Then we moved all the alpaca hair to the tack room. I need to make a skirting table so we can get the dirt and loose particles removed from the fleece. This needs to happen this year so we can get the hair to a small processing mill.
We then lined up the feeders on the opposite side of the sorting chute to make an alley way to push the sheep to the back of the barn. We sorted off 41 lambs. After this the buyer will need to wait until December before he can come back. This will help us dramatically with our hay consumption. We currently have 40 ewes that can have babies and five babies that were too small to sale. We had to look up how many ewes a single ram can service. The answer is no more than 50 for him to impregnate them in the same 34 day estrus cycle. He can do more it’s just that the babies will come over two months instead of one. He was very well behaved today in the barn. Also the ewes are getting used to the frequent sorting. They ran down the chute with very little prompting.
I am going to have to fix the gate latch on the corral. When we installed the new fence we moved that railroad tie a little bit and now the latch is off 1/4 of an inch and won’t engage. I need to drill a new set of holes in a 2×6 board and attach it to the railroad tie. This will fix all the latching problems. We also tightened up a couple of hanging gates.
Well the sheep for sale have been hanging out in the barn lot all day and a momma managed to get into the ram pasture. So the babies have started to test the fence, unfortunately it’s not very good! So after quitting early so I didn’t feel horrible after working all day in the hot sun I ended up back out in the heat fixing the fence. I tightened it and then added a whole layer of woven wire on the upper half of the fence. I rolled it out and was 1.5 feet short. So I just filled it with smooth wire patches. The other little section will have to wait till tomorrow I am beat and tired.
Phil came over the next day to finish fencing with me. It had just dawned on me early that morning that Phil had my tools out by the horse stalls. The one place I never thought to look. We now have enough fencing tools for three people! I even got another fancy belt so all your tools are handy and there is a space for staples and clips. I had already spent a few hours on the horse wall during the week, moving rocks around and stiffening the area around the wooden posts. It didn’t really look like I had done much. We worked on the barn lot fence using the old tools and the new tools for a day and it didn’t really seem like we had gotten any where.
No young person knows how to use a hammer. I have probably taught ten youngsters how to drive a nail or staple correctly: Hit that thing! Quit choking up so much on the handle! Take a big swing! Hit it straight on! Grab the hammer at the end of the handle! You are choking up again! Big swings!
So Phil and I are out restretching the fence, this can also be called fence tightening. Which I think is an oxymoron because you practically have to dissemble the fence first before you can tighten it again. This takes a lot of time. We got the west side of the barn lot done. Then we tightened the south side. On this one we had to install wooden fence stays as I had never done that before. My plan was just to alternate with Phil as we walked down the fence line. The problem with this is No One Knows How To Hammer! For every one Phil got hammered in place I did three! I razzed him but we had been at it 8 hours in 98F weather and we were tired. Every time I leaned over to bend down and get the bottom staple I got light headed and dizzy. I know it was hot but I had drank 1.5 gallons of water that day! I wanted to get that fence section completed but called it quits with three stays left. I was afraid I would pass out and there was no sense in paying Phil any longer for the day. He was hurting also but was unwilling to give up as I was still plugging along and am half his age.
We had a friend offer up some apricots. All we could pick! So on Thursday we went to their house and picked a large box. A single box only. I put them on the kitchen table and the next day we picked up four packs of pectin. We had never made apricot freezer jam before. So I fished them out of the box and put them into the sink bath. AnnMarie puréed them in the food processor. It only takes 3 cups of purée for every box of pectin. We doubled the recipe and made two batches. So we used 12 cups and then froze 30 cups of apricot purée do later use! It was amazing stuff as I had to keep taste testing to ensure adequate quality standards were met.
I am not even sure where to begin. July has been a whirlwind month for us. We spent two weeks in Tiawan visiting our foreign exchange student Monica and her family. It was amazing! They told us two weeks was not long enough and next time we needed to come for a month.
We did manage to find a house sitter. A young man who used to help me out a few years ago. He watched the place during the week and a nephew watched it on weekends. Phil also worked on the horse rock enclosure while we were gone. He made good progress but was unable to finish.
The cows got out four times while we were gone. This is excessive even for them. The morning after we got back AnnMarie said we needed to sort cows again as they were mixed up again. AnnMarie got them into the ram pasture and just behind the house when I decided to help with the dogs. Zeke pushed them through the fence corner and one cow got stuck straddling the smooth wire fence. Now mind you the fence has needed some TLC the last three years but has not been getting it. I had to cut the fence wire to get the cow out. So now the fence really does need repaired. We sorted and put the bull in the corral. He had a slight limp and a crack in one of his front hooves. We figured the rest and relaxation with some hose cleanup of his wound would fix him right up. He has been getting out and is usually the instigator in these little escapades. We put the cows in on the upper prime pasture as it had been closed off while we were away. I was ready for a nap and AnnMarie was headed to town 30 minutes later when she called me. The cows were out and up in the neighbors alfalfa. No nap. We loaded the dogs into the pickup and I rode in back with mouse. He hates vehicles and won’t stay in the back yet alone. Zeke loved it and doesn’t jump out without a command. We pushed the cows toward the upper prime pasture. They found the open gate that leads out into the wheat field! I had to get ahead of them and open another gate. We both ended up with sunburns and I forgot a hat and burnt my head. Damn cows, the upper prime field has holes all over. It’s time to get my fencing on!!
The following weekend I managed to get Mr. Manners out to help with fencing, we started at 0500. My alarm went off at 0410 and I promptly turned it off and rolled over. We had only been back 4 days and our sleep schedules were not normalized yet. AnnMarie woke me up to tell me Mr Manners was due at 0500. I was exhausted! I drug myself out of bed, went downstairs and made coffee. I then proceeded to put away the clean dishes and cooked some Kansas City bacon. Mr. Manners showed up perfectly on time. I suspected this had more to do with dad being the chauffeur. He had not eaten breakfast and for a teenage boy this is a significant event. I fed him two bacon and egg sandwiches then we went outside to fence. It took about 30 minutes to fill the back of the pickup with T posts and fencing stays and wire. I could not find any tools!!? I looked everywhere to no avail. So we started on the simple stuff that needed no tools. We laid out T posts in the barn lot and started pounding them in. July is a lousy month to fence. It’s even worse when you start pounding posts into the ground by hand. By the 8th post Mr. Manners was telling me how he had hurt his back playing a sport. I am three times his age plus some change and I did my half of the posts. I would have let him drive them all if he had been capable. We then strung out smooth wire in the upper prime pasture. It had some holes that needed an extra row of wire to narrow the gap so the cows would quit working an opening into the fence. After that we went and got several rolls of woven wire to lay out in the upper prime squared field.
There is a significant amount of discussion surrounding my naming scheme of fields. It’s a fluid situation and may be subject to change in the future. I am getting ready to fence in the hillside and want to call it “square root of prime”. But for now this is the field we pounded in T posts last year and never strung out the wire. We laid out woven wire along all the fence lines.
I taught Mr. Manners how to drive the tractor and asked him to move a large pile of feces away from the front of the barn. He was on it when I left for town to get tools. I made it to the checkout stand with all my tools before I discovered I had no wallet or money. The drive home was uneventful, I hollered at Mr. Manners to level the tractor bucket with the ground so he could take a bigger scoop of poop. This time I returned with tools. He was doing much better on the tractor. We ate lunch then just did a couple of things before the chauffeur arrived. His dad, the chauffeur, got out to thank me for allowing his son the opportunity to work. It was nice. I am sure he went home and took a nap.
Friday was cow day. We had a few things that had to get done before our vacation and shearing the alpaca and sorting the cows were the last two things. We had just discovered a new calf a few days before sorting. Now mind you the calf was not three days old, more like 2-4 weeks old. The cows have an amazing ability to hide the babies after they are born. Mr. President’s older brother came out to help us sort cows and get the lowdown on house sitting for us while we are gone.
We ran them into the corral and then sorted them in the chute. Everyone got an initial dose of fly powder and I will fill the fly bag before we leave. We had to tag the baby, a little girl and our number ten heifer! We only want to run ten heifers and our bull. From now on we will be getting rid of all the calves. The screwy part is that means we will have to run two herds and about 20-30 cows total at any one point due to the age difference and one calf being born every 12 months. To tell which cows we are getting rid of we will be tagging the keepers in the left ear and all the cull cows in the right ear. We just have to have a plan. We have one eating calf in the pipeline for next year but he will be ours. He was the undescended testicle man, a little bull. We ate the last little bull and he was very tasty. So any calves born this year will be for sale in 6 months if you want to finish them off or 18 months after birth if you want to eat them.
The corral system worked like a dream again. It can be done with two people but three is ideal. It lets everyone manipulate a gate or two and the animals get moved faster. We have a total of 13 cows now.
Our necklace system did not survive the winter. The plastic necklaces and tags hung low enough that the cows kept catching them on the feeders and tearing them off. We opted to shorten the necklaces and remove the tags. We only really need to know the identities of our original three cows. They are the ones we can keep new heifers from for our herd management. I used a bent wire to reach under their heads in the chute. This prevented a random horn from impaling me. This was AnnMarie’s idea. In typical guy fashion I was just going to play “who can move faster” with the horned cows. This is not exactly a wise decision, especially with our one crazy cow. You can also tell the original three by their horns. They have a narrow span and very forward pointing horns.
Phil is going to work on watering the orchard, ram pasture and our yard. His big project is going to be to build rock metal cages for the horse area. This will let us create a drainage field and level out the horse area. It will also prevent horse poop from rolling down the hill. We worked on the first cage so Phil knew what to do and he only has to build four more. I am loving the idea of this project being completed while we are gone.
Thursday was the day the alpaca were finished. The boys came out first thing and we continued the routine. My back ached from the previous seven hours so I made them do all the lifting. I was the “skilled help”. The fact that I managed to cut all three of the alpaca is irrelevant. The boys kept trying to one up each other and Mr. Manners made the sidekick ask for help after he popped off that he could catch and halter an alpaca by himself. He could not and was reduced to having to ask for help twice before it was forthcoming. The boys were slow moving the alpaca to the shearing table or word had been passed down the previous night about the potential for a scalping because the last three laid down on the ground immediately! The boys had to get on each side and grab hair and lift the alpaca to the shearing table, shove a knee under their belly then lift the shearing table into a horizontal position. I tied the head to the corner of the table. It was a crucial job that required minimal effort.
Our hoof trimmer blades started to slide apart each time I went to use them. I made them work and even tightened and them loosened them nothing seemed to help. I just kept using them and told myself we were almost done. I had the same problem with the last shearing blade. I swapped it out and could not get it to cut. I tried metal cutting blade instead of ceramic but that just made it worse. I finally went to an old used blade and a new ceramic blade. This is the real reason I cut the last three alpaca at least that’s what I tell myself. Although in all fairness it does make a huge difference when using a sharpened blade. I am going to buy one more comb blade and only use the ceramic cutters. I will order it all this year when I get these blades sharpened. The alpaca were filthy! They had rocks and dust at the base of their necks. We have ten large burlap sacks full of saddle hair and ten garbage bags full of seconds from neck and legs.
We want to get the good stuff woven and the seconds made into hair mats, felted type. The big question now is how much will that cost and how many pounds do we have. We probably have 50 pounds at least at about $35-40/lb to process. So we are going to have to plan that expense. We have to buy 35-40 ton of hay this year so that comes first.
I will pick up hoof trimmers soon and throw out the others so I will be ready next time. I am learning it is better to get everything you need for next time immediately so you don’t forget anything and when you do it next time everything you need is at hand. I don’t want to store the gunny sacks just because of the mice.
I made the boys move the shearing table into the barn. The thing is a beast and it was not easy. I had to help Mr. Manners with his end of the table. He needs to do more strengthening exercises. It is now living in a corner of one of the hay rooms. Doing the shearing in the old milking shed area kept the sun off of us. I need to lay out the tarp over the dirt next time. We had one alpaca flop off of the table like a fish and it was still tied up by the feet. The ropes were not tight enough and we had not stretched out the animal. Plus, I might have just cut them with the shaver. The hair cuts got better looking the more practice I got.