Damn tractor

I spent all day Friday with the new old tractor, the International. It was supposed to be a pleasant day. The tractor was running before I forgot to remove the negative terminal and allowed the battery to die.  The battery was charged in the old house and ready to go. I just needed to hook up the hay grapple and I could move the old hay and get the machine shop ready for new fodder. 
I installed the battery and could not get the tractor to start. This necessitated a trip to Pendleton to pick up a new battery. I bought the largest highest amperage RV/Boat battery I could find!  I returned home and installed it. It barely fit but with some pounding and jostling I managed to get it in place. 
The tractor started!  I was happy, now I just needed to get the hay grapple attached. Before moving the tractor I decided to try out the hydraulics for the grapple. Yep, the only hydraulic connections they did not check was leaking. I took a picture and drove to Pendleton, unbeknownst to me a picture is not worth a 1000 words when trying to get a common fitting for a 60 year old tractor. So I had to drive back home and attempt to remove the part. Nope, I needed an open end wrench of 1 1/16 inch size. I had to stop at my parents and borrow my dad’s tools. I still think of them that way even if they are mine now. I went back to Pendleton again and asked for the part. They didn’t have one!  Luckily, their competition did and I only had to wait 30 minutes for it to be transported to their shop. I installed it. 
No more leak present. I started the tractor and managed to get the pieces for the grapple lined up and had to shut down multiple times to get every part in place. 
I had one pin to attempt to get in place when the tractor refused to start. It turned over but wouldn’t fire up. AnnMarie hollered from the front porch that it was out of gas. I checked by opening gas tank cap, and it was full. The gas gauge does not work. No go, I could not get the beast started. I put in a call to the tractor repair place and they will call me first thing Monday morning. It should work. I want them to come out to the farm. It cost me $250 to have it transported round trip last time. I am betting a farm call is cheaper than that. I am going to try it one more time on Sunday. 

One of the 90 degree fittings was cracked. 

Another day on the farm

I had the brothers out today. I had gotten up early to make sourdough waffles. The sourdough was prompted by us buying a new crock for our sourdough at a recent yard sale. This idea was nixed once we figured out our current crock had kept the sourdough in great shape with no mold with us ignoring the batter for a solid year. So I added more flour and water and left it out on the countertop to use in the morning. I got up early so I could make sourdough waffles. I had the waffle iron out and was attempting to find a recipe when I realized I should of done the recipe the night before. We have an entire shelf of old cookbooks. There is a lot of material to sift through. I found one that substituted the milk for sourdough starter. I followed this recipe but it was for pancakes not waffles. Unfortunately, I followed the recipe and ended up with bread dough. I had to add about a cup of milk to get the consistency correct. This means I needed a different cooking device. I could not find our electric griddle so I used the electric fryer. It’s hard to turn pancakes in. They turned out good, definitely sourdough but a little heavy. Teenagers don’t really care and add in a couple of chunks of ham and they were happy. They seemed hesitant to eat more till I told them the chickens get to eat all the leftover pancakes. 

The first item of the day was to sort off the cows. We have three young girls that need a few months away from the bull so they don’t become teenage mothers. We shut and opened gates so the cows could be herded into the barn lot. The horses did not want to leave the barn lot so they got locked into the old lambing shed. They can watch everything from there. We walked up onto the back hillside with the dogs running all around. Once we got to the lower pasture we could see the cows on the bottom near the gate and the sheep low in the hillside ideal positioning to get the cows through leaving the sheep behind. I told the brothers we would stay up on the hill and the dogs would do all the work. I did preface this by saying Mouse was still a puppy and learning. He needs the off leash work to improve. What a mess!  I hollered. I cajoled. I brought the dogs back and told them cows not sheep. Mouse finally got locked onto the cows but every time I looked away he kept sneaking forward. Zeke was the real culprit, that damn dog ONLY wanted to chase the sheep. By this time he had already chased them up to the top of the hill and out of sight yet every time I sent him out to circle the cows he ran up the hill!  Twice I brought him back and made him look at the cows. We talked about cows. I pointed him to the cows while giving a voice command. He was not listening, more like totally ignoring everything I said or wanted him to do. This brought about a colorful oral tirade of high volume and duration. I had to jump the fence and walk out and direct the dogs from a nearby position. This took me almost 30 minutes to get the cows out of the lower pasture. My voice was hoarse and my throat sore. Unfortunately, I may have taught the brothers some variations of the English language they probably should not know. I had to choke down each dog a couple of times. There are times they make me crazy. They are so pack driven as a pair that you must be at the top of the food chain or they think they are in charge and do whatever they want. It makes me crazy. Yet when they figure it out and do what they are supposed to it’s a breeze to move any of the animals. 
We got the cows in and sorted. Our new yard fence caused the corral gate opening to get about an inch bigger. The gate no longer latches. I figured this out while trying to sort cows. We got the bull and a few heifers away from the little girls. The little girls and their mommas are in the barn lot with the horses. Unfortunately this only puts one fence between them. I need to add a 50 yard section to the lower hillside so the bull will have double fencing separarating him from the teenage girls. This will have to happen in the spring. I will never be able to drive any T posts into the ground until then. 
As a side note Sunday morning we were looking at the cows out our kitchen window and AnnMarie asks me if that baby belonged out on the hillside. “Of course” was my instant reply. Guess who forgot that we now have a working gate by the horse feeders which was open and the gate leading into the ram pasture was open and the ram pasture fence is still down and cut up. So all the cows are back together again and need to be sorted yet again!  Some lessons are painful. 

We then moved into the barn to finish getting it ready. The brothers spread out the old hay all over the floor to use as straw. All the tools were moved into the milking area. The dogs were in the milking area trying to harass the kittens. Mouse was digging under the walkway and Zeke was trying to enlarge the hole along the back wall  I had just made for the cats. We found some scrap wood and screwed it onto the wall to create a cat sized opening that the dogs could not expand. We also cut a 2×10 to create a face on the walkway so when I clean it out with the tractor I don’t push the mess under the walkway. This also gives another protected spot for the feral cats to hide. We have two feral fixed cats living in the barn. We are going to start housing them. Two weeks for two cats in a pen fed and watered them turned loose in the barn to live. We feed the cats in the barn daily. We need to get a handle on our mice population. 
The pallet stairs for side door are complete and we took away the rope door tie and installed an actual metal gate latch. 

We spent almost 1.5 hours just putting tools away and cleaning up. I even put all the tools away in the old house!  

It was hot and I was thirsty so when one of the brothers asked about the mini fridge I opened it up to show him it was just for extra egg storage. Low and behold there was a cold Gatorade in there!   I cracked that open and half of it down before someone asked me how old it was, 2012!  I polished off the second half in 15 seconds, smacked my lips and stated 2012 was a great year. No illness has occurred in the drinking of this expired beverage. I am thinking about stashing more drinks in this mini fridge! 
Usually the tools make it inside the door in a big pile. I am still missing my cordless drill but I am pretty sure I broke it early this summer. The barn is rough on tools. I need to order another one. 
We did a bunch of little projects.  We installed a new latch board with two holes so the corral is back in service. We covered three gates with wire panels so the sheep and baby cows cannot slip through the gates. 
We picked up an entire trash can full of loose hay string from all over the farm. 
We also removed our wooden trash can enclosure door and straightened the bottom hinge. It had gotten torqued in a wind storm several years ago. 

We installed a 3.5 inch ABS pipe downspout on the barn and then applied random sizes of wood in various locations to protect it from the horses. I am hopeful that this will stop 80% of the mud formed in the back alley way. 
We did go check on the plums in the upper prime pasture they are really close to being done. I suspect 4-7 days is all I that is needed. 

The boys ate Italian sausages on ciabatta bread with a plum for lunch. Good thing I had the 12 pack of sausages. I cannot even imagine what it is like to feed five teenage boys!! 

Yard fencing

Zeke had still been getting out of the yard!  Despite all the new fencing we have installed next to the barn lot. The last real section of yard fencing that needs to be replaced is behind one of our large front trees. I decided to just use cow panels as I had quite a few extra. Unfortunately, I just needed to find time to do it. Last weekend was Pilot Rock Community Days so we spent the morning hitting all the yard sales. We went to over 24 sales before noon.  We did not find any old glass marbles. I still need about 1.5 gallons to finish filling my display. We did find some cool old things that can be repurposed. We found a board with three mounted brass horse shaped hooks for $3.00. We removed the hooks and I replaced the plain brass hooks in our laundry room with horse hooks. We also scored some more laying hens!  One of the locals, our old telephone guy (who had to repair the buried line multiple times in our yard), saw us and said his adult child had purchased chicks at Easter and now had four adult chickens that needed a new home. All four of the hens were laying eggs so they would be productive immediately. 

We have lost 11 chickens to some unknown predator. No feathers and no bodies. They just vanish. Our working theory is it is a type of large bird or chicken thieves. Since we have been back from vacation no birds have disappeared. We were down to 13 hens and two of those are very broody so we are only getting 5-6 eggs/day. We were selling almost seven plus dozen a week. Now we are selling two dozen a week only. We had to tell all our regular customers that we are mostly out of the egg business for a while.  They brought the hens over and the hens have been attempting to integrate themselves ever since. 


I had decided that the rest of the fencing could not be delayed any longer as I was tired of Zeke gettting out. So on Sunday I ripped all of the offending section of fence out almost 60 feet. Once I got the fence out I used the tractor to drag the fence line clear. I also needed to drag out the old large dead branches that have been there the last seven years. 

I used the tractor to level out the area. This seemed simple but the tree roots kept getting in the way. I had to break out an axe and chop through three different roots. About half way through the leveling process I uncovered a hole!  A four inch iron pipe was sticking into a 12 inch round hole. I tried to see the bottom of the hole with my cell phone flashlight and could not see the bottom!  I dropped a piece of concrete from an old fence into the hole and it disappeared. I kept dropping concrete and dirt into the hole until I was able to get a dirt surface. It has disappeared but I am uncertain why the hole was there and what it did and how deep it was. It may appear at some time in the future. 

I strung a line across the posts and drive in T posts every 8 feet. I then placed cow panels across them. I attached them to the T posts and wired the ends together. The fence looks good! Now we will see if Zeke can get out. 

Barn ready for winter!

The Padawan returned the next morning on Sunday. He again had cereal for breakfast and was fed egg scramble with potatoes, onions and sidepork. He ate it all, no hot chocolate for him but I had two cups of coffee. He was itching to get out to the barn and finish the feeders. I had done all of the board cutting and had him assemble all the pieces on the wall with occasional help and lots of verbal direction. If it was wrong or loose I just had him undo and redo it. It’s a barn and we are reusing scraps and old wood. This just adds more character to the building. We had to start using several pieces instead of one piece as I was running out of long boards. Once the Padawan finished the feeders I had him dig in the second story of the barn for my leftover tongue and groove board I had used on the main floor. We needed to add a new floor to one of the hay rooms. The boards had broken and it was a safety hazard. I cut the boards and then had him screw them down. We had to float three pieces together then screw down one, add a new one etc. you have to do it this way or else you cannot add the new board. The tongue and groove will warp when you tightened the first board down. Leaving two free floating allows you to counteract this problem. While he screwed down the floor I worked on adding another board to the momma and baby area. They can still jump out!  The problem with this is the grain bin lever. You need to be able to reach it to open the gate. A higher enclosure would block access to the handle. My solution was pure brilliance, I reused one of the jug gates!!  I also stiffened the enclosure. 

I also fixed the sorting chute. The sheep kept jumping over the ends of the smaller chute section. I added a heavy wire panel over these bolted in place to bounce them back into the chute should they attempt to jump out. I used some scrap panels, scrap wood and an old metal grounding strip plus new bolts. I don’t have a good selection of old bolts. Most of the old nails and bolts I sent out with scrap metal. It was too hard to keep track of them and they needed to be sorted. I had no time for that. 

We also set up our new corral system as a hay enclosure. Our large bales that don’t fit in the machine shop will live outside. I think I can only fit 15 ton in the machine shop. 


We had lunch at 1216 today. The Padawan remembered and was rewarded with more food. Ham and cheese sandwiches again. 

Supposed to be fencing

It has happened again, I have started with another teenager. I had told his mother we would fence but by the time he arrived last Saturday morning I had changed my mind. I had managed to get the outside fence secured so the animals are not escaping. I really want to enclose the new upper prime squared area but it will take me 40-60 hours to complete that fencing. That is a huge time commitment for four acres. Instead, I voted on actually getting ready for winter. The young Padawan was dropped off at 0645 with his father apologizing for the early drop off. I told him no problem and did not tell him I usually make them start at 0500-0530 during the summer. The Padawan is only 14 so he cannot drive. 
I drug him inside the house and asked him what he had for breakfast, “cereal” was the succinct answer. I was cooking breakfast as I had expected him at 0700.  We were having fried side pork and fresh farm eggs cooked in same grease pool pan that the pork was cooked in. He denied hunger. I went on the presumption that he was a teenage boy and can eat any time no matter how soon a meal was completed. He drank hot chocolate while I finished. He didn’t know what side pork was and he picked gingerly at his two eggs upon their sudden arrival in front of him. AnnMarie asked me if I had asked him if he even wanted food. I gave her the look “he is a teenage boy”.  He tried the pork and eggs. By the time I finished my breakfast he had consumed all the food in front of him. He was very polite and even offered to rinse off his own dishes. AnnMarie gave him the requisite speech about making me stop for lunch when he got hungry or else we would work all day with no lunch! 

We went outside to knock down the tumbleweeds in our driveway. I asked him if he knew how to drive. He stated yes. I got into the passenger seat as a precaution. I was hollering for him to push the break in the first five seconds of vehicle movement. He was turning into the car parallel to the pickup. Next was teaching him to actually look over his shoulder when backing up not just saying a Hail Mary prayer and going for it!  This concept took quite a bit of prompting almost as only using the right foot for the gas and brake. He managed to get the pickup over to the burn pile without adding a new dent.  On the plus side, between the numerous dents, dings and peeling paint I am not sure a new one would be noticed. I finished dragging weeds over to the burn pile with the tractor while the Padawan walked around picking up hay bale strings. We tossed loose scrap wood onto the burn pile also. I tasked him with parking the pickup back near our other vehicle. I did encourage him to hit the brake and not crunch through my fence and down into the front creek when parking. He did fine. The farm pickup is no worse for meeting him. 

We went into the barn to get ready for winter. Since we will have another 21 sheep we needed more feeder space. We had agreed that the jugs needed to come out as we were using the momma/baby area instead of the jugs. We had lumber stacked on the jugs and had started to dissemble by the time I remembered to take a starting picture. The goal as always is to reuse as much as possible. I saved the intact gates. Those had come from the old lamb shed. A gate is hard to make and harder to make one that will last 40 years so I just store them for use in later projects. They are “barn ready and tested” which is vital when you actually use them. We got the jugs totally disassembled and then started building the wall feeders. I just build stuff!!  No plans just an idea in my head and then I just keep digging through the scrap piles to make old pieces usable again. I taught the Padawan how to use an impact driver. I only swapped out six new drivers the first day!!  He did remember lunch. We were inside by 1230 eating ham and cheese sandwiches. 

We finished after an 8 hour day and he was disappointed we had not finished and moved onto fencing. I chuckled and told him we were close and had accomplished more than I thought we would.  He seemed excited to come back the next day to finish up the project!  He is also the only teenager I have had help me who could read a tape measure and knew what was a T square. Bonus points for the Padawan!  

Phil’s last fencing day

I have been saving broken off T posts for some occasion. I was unsure of what exactly that occasion would be but I figured I would find a use eventually. Here is the use, I pounded in three posts to keep the barn wall from sliding off the rock again. 

The bull managed to push through the fence in the corner. He ripped out the panel and pushed out a board. I had only held the panel in place with staples. This time we lowered the board and screwed it in with long Fastenal anchors. We added a second board across the top and wrapped wire around the ends of the panel so it cannot be lifted or pulled away again. 

Phil came out to help on Saturday. The goal was to get the rest of the upper prime pasture enclosed and secured so we can let animals loose. The goal is everyone staying in place. We worked for nine hours and got all the outer fence secured. AnnMarie had told me there was another hole in the far corner. I was not convinced but we drove the whole fence to be sure. Guess who was right?  Yep the wife scores again. The cows had done the same thing for a third time!  Picked a corner and pushed out a panel. I again had only bent nails over to hold the panel in place. I used 3 inch staples on both sides and we wired the panels to the posts so they cannot be lifted even if the staples get popped out. We had to tighten one more back section of fence. I had added T posts and I the back section a couple of years ago but it looks like I need to add more. The main pasture is ready. We just need to sort the cows again. 

Damn bull!

Well Friday was spent fixing stuff!  The bull was tired of being in a pen. He started throwing a fit and managed to knock the corner of the milkshed off its rock corner. Now in his defense gravity was the only thing keeping that corner on said rock. AnnMarie let him out of the pen so she could load the sheep up on Thursday. He promptly ran out into the barn lot and magically got out to be with the female cows. There is now another hole in the fence that will need help I be repaired.  I used the little tractor and tried to lift the corner up. No go it is over the 800# weight limit so I piled two pallets into the bucket and then tipped the bucket once it wouldn’t lift any more. The tilt hydraulics don’t have a governor so they will move regardless of weight!  This allowed me to lift it a couple of inches so I could get the wall back on the rock. I will need to pound in some stakes to prevent this from happening again. I had been meaning to put in stakes anyways. 

Since the bull was out this necessitated me repairing all the lower fence as quick as possible. So I loaded up the tractor with supplies and tooled on down toward the school house. I found a hole in the fence I did not know about. 
The cows had decided to make their own decisions about where to eat and my wishes were being ignored. I ended up adding a new wire and restretching and attaching the fence to the rock crib again. I tried to add a T post but I kept hitting rocks so I added another wooden stay. There was a roll of barn wire there so I used it. I remembered why I only use smooth wire. The stuff is horrible to handle and the animals don’t seem to care if it’s smooth or barn wire they treat it the same. It was very hot outside. 

The cow hole is now repaired but I had been told there was an opening down by the schoolhouse and this one was just an added bonus. 

Down by the schoolhouse there was a 20 foot section I had only stretched woven wire across. I thought the animals could not get to it due to the hillside. I was wrong. So I stretched three more strands and added some wooden stays. This should hold them I hope. All this took me six hours to repair.