This is why we do it.

I came home to this view after work today. Honestly, there is a reason we live out in the country and truly this is it. It was just barely above 50 F and I had to wear a light coat to work outside. I mowed the lawn and never broke out into a sweat. Its the perfect temperature. I simply cannot fathom living in a city any more. People ask me all the time why I like living on a farm when it seems like I am always working. Its not really working when you like it. There are times I don’t like it but that is not very often. I get an incredible sense of satisfaction and joy from saving something and improving it and knowing it will still be there in 50 years.

It will be something my grandkids and family point out to visitors and say my great grandfather did that. Plus, since I am keeping records with photos and stories the information is staying in the family. Annmarie turns the blog into a book every year and we order one copy for our library every year. I think she is a couple of years behind.

My day started today at 0400, when Annmarie woke me up in bed and asked me what that noise was? I managed to croak out a bird. It was a very weird sounding bird but it did sound like a bird. I then tried to go back to sleep. Nope, it had been bugging her so she got up and got dressed with the light on then headed outside to check on said noise. I told her to take a gun and she wanted to know if I had my phone on so she could text me if my presence was needed. I checked the phone, the volume was on. I tried to go to sleep but I could not and then when Annmarie came inside she opted to do her yoga at 0430 and never came and told me what that sound was! The noise was gone so I figured she knew. I had to wait until after yoga and her shower to learn that it was a screech owl. It was a very weird sound.

After my errands this afternoon I came home to attempt to mow the lawn but I was out of fuel in my spare cans. All the fuel got used in the old tractor because it uses gas not diesel. I opted to mow any ways. It was getting dark and I figured I would have to stop before the fuel ran out. I was right.

The dogs and I had to go out and feed the barn lot cows and the sheep. The puppy and Zeke got to go in the barn with the sheep. Mouse had a hard time staying put, he thought every time I called his name I wanted him to rush the sheep. I kept calling his name to tell him to stay just to throw him off. He calmed down eventually. The dogs and I are chilling until Annmarie comes home from judging a robotics competition. Now if only the little puppy would quit farting while laying next to me.

Major fence finale!

Today was the do or die day. I needed to get that hillside fence completed as it is supposed to snow three days this week. Once the snow starts flying I will not be able to dig into the ground to make a flat spot to install the gate. I ate a good breakfast, three pieces of french toast with fresh fruit and syrup. I have been skipping lunch which makes me very hungry by 1600 but it saves me an hour extra working time.

I tried dragging the boxblade across the area but needed to try and dig into the hillside with the bucket. I also had to lower the claws on the box blade to start loosening all the rocks. It took me almost three hours to prep the area. I kept jumping off the tractor to fill the bucket with large rocks and make a pile next to where the rock crib should belong .

I found an old gate up on the hill that I used. I had taken all the stuff up there to do multiple rock cribs and install a gate and never used them. This was for when I expanded the hillside to be even with the prime squared field. This keeps getting put off. I would like to drive T posts for it in the spring if nothing else. I had the bottom side crib perfectly formed and then started dumping rocks into it. Then the rocks got so big I had to use the tractor bucket to lift them. This did not make for keeping my nice neat rock crib in line. I now have a crooked wooden post. I had to add onto the rock on the other side as my gate is only 12 feet instead of sixteen. This worked out as that side will now be the gate hinge side. I don’t have the stuff to mount the gate. I need two 1” thick 6” long eyebolts and I need two 3/4” inch 4” long pins with locking pins. The opening side needs several 2×6 boards overlapped to cover the other side. This is a spring time job so I just wired the gate in place. I pulled the entire hillside wire tight and then walked the hill tightening the T post clips and replacing staples and clips that had been torn off by the animals over the last few years.

This picture shows the pasture above the upper prime. This is the one I need to burn then replant with round up ready alfalfa. The pasture will be too wet in places for it but I need to be able to spray to get a handle on the weeds. If the weather really does change and snow this week I want to burn this weed patch.

I dumped a large bale of hay down below for those cows so that cut the evening chores by a third.

Hay no more

Today I picked up the last of the hay, 8 more tons. Bring on the Winter! Our animals should be good to go. I had to get all large bales, 1300#. Since the big tractor is on hiatus until I can figure out what is wrong with it. So I used my little tractor to push the bales off of the flat bed. So now I have 12 bales in a fairly wide area just hanging out waiting for me to push them to their respective drop off/eating point.

Someone came over to look at the old tractor but the problem never appeared. I drove the tractor out and picked up a bale with no issues. We did give the tractor about 2.5 gallons of hydraulic fluid and found most of the leaks. Two of the leaks look like fairly straight corrective issues. I just need to put some teflon tape on the joints and retighten. I do need to go through and grease all the zirks to ensure everything is loose and slippery.

So after my assistant left I attempted to get the bales into the machine shop. Just as I was getting the first bale into the machine shed the tractor started to do that whole starved for fuel thing. I need to get some carburetor gum out spray. Maybe that will fix the problem.

I spent Friday building on my rock wall on the back hillside. I was supposed to go help someone trim llama hooves so I did not want to get the hillside fence laid down and have to leave. I used the tractor mistress to scrape dirt and build up the wall. The gate I had installed was pulling the post over. As Annmarie puts it she “told me so” and I should not have swung that gate out over air. I could not dig the post down as far as I wanted due to all the rocks. So I leveled off the gate area and cut into the back hill side so the gate could swing the other way. I will also install a wheel on the end of the gate so there won’t be any pressure on the end of the gate causing the post to move. I tried to tamp gravel down around the loose post but it just did not stiffen the post enough. I removed the gate and will put it on the other side of the opening as those posts are nice and stiff.

Bob the cat got out of his enclosure today. He is 2-3 years old and unwanted. He is also fixed! So we made a pen and kept him in the machine shed for 8 days. Today, I let him out and he disappeared into the machine shed. We will provide food for him out there and he can live out his life eating mice and cat food.

Out kitty in the barn is doing well. He loves to get petted on more than eating cat food. I usually only see him once a day inside the barn. He lives in the barn with the old tomcat. We need a couple more cats to live out in the barn. We feed the cats on our back porch, the barn and the machine shop now.

The bull is not with the plan

I have not been able to get back up on the hillside and finish the fence this week. I keep wanting to but other things keep coming up.

These other things should sound important, but they really are not. I really was ready for our living room to start turning back into a usable space and less like a storage room. I managed to get the craft room finished with some effort last week and buffaloed the child into coming over and helping move furniture. Annmarie has been an invalid all week and has managed to sleep the better part of 48 hours straight so she will be no help moving furniture. We got the loom, the cedar chest and the trunk all moved out of the living room. Now we just need to get a book shelf down from the office and the sewing machine from our bedroom installed and the room will be complete. The new paint, new floor and lack of curtains makes the room echo something fierce. I will be installing the curtains tomorrow.

We used colors from a turn of the century palette. So we really do have color in the house now. I used this awesome brown under the stairs and since it was a small area I put it all on with a brush. I usually use a roller or pad. I now know why I use a roller or pad, I have these weird shadows in the paint from changing brush stroke angles. They will not just come out by themselves. I have tried that correction method already, now I need to roll them out. When I attempted to install the door on the closet under the stairs it would not fit. It kept rubbing on the top and hitting on the bottom. I had to use a hand planer to remove about1/8” off the top on the distal half from the hinges. Then I smashed on the lower door casing a few times and ended up taking the door off the wall three times until I had chiseled the hinge joint down enough to allow the door to close unhindered.

This small little endeavor took me three hours to get the door right.

The bull is being a typical male with lots of testosterone and too much spare time. He found a way to get from the bottom pasture into the barn lot last week by going through the creek in the ram pasture. There was an old fence creek crossing that was installed prior to us moving here. He pushed through it and made his way in. Well this week he decided he wanted to go back down with the other cows. This time he tore up the crossing pretty severely getting out. Luckily, the sheep and other cows are just not as motivated as him, none of them have used the crossing. I think even the sheep could pass through the hole now.

Fencing cause I love it

The cows are at it again! Earlier this week a neighbor called Annmarie at work to tell her our cows were out. This happens a few times a year. I cannot believe that it only happens to us. I had a more flexible schedule that day so I went home during the day and spent three hours herding cows back to our pasture. The first thing that must happen before the cows can be retrieved is to figure out their escape hole and fix it. It does you no good to get them if you don’t plug the hole first. The bull tried to get under the panel crossing the front runoff ditch but it is wired in place on top and bottom. He couldn’t get it to move, favorite technique denied!

This prompted him to try out his second favorite technique, which is opening the gate. He will try and lift it off its hinges or push/pull it open. He managed to tear the gate latch out of the post. I had merely stapled the chain into the post with three 2.5 inch long staples. He just pulled them out of the wood and off the cows went. The crazy part is they went into the section I am building a new fence around. If I can get more fence up they will just break into the next fenced in area and will be stuck. No more calls at work from neighbors. I wrapped the chain around the entire post and tied it together. He will now have to rip the post out of the ground to get through the gate.

I drove the mistress up to the end of the property and brought both border collies with me. We were told the cows were in the neighbors green alfalfa field, which is a common destination. I tooled up there but didn’t see the cows so I went up the creek, on the road, with the dogs hoping to spot the cows. They were hiding at the far end of the suspected field by some out buildings. So the dogs and I drove back to the entry point of the field. I had to wait for Zeke to catch up so Mouse and I took a breather. We all calmly and slowing made our way to the creekside of the field. It is no longer an alfalfa field. It’s a grass field now. I kept a tight verbal reign on the dogs. They did very well. Annmarie had some issues with a Mouse and had to do the dominance choke. He listened better. We have learned that working with pack behavior and using the tools the dogs use on each other allows us to maintain our alpha leader status and the dogs understand us. Mouse does not like to stay in one place while I drive off a few hundred yards. Zeke will stay and guard a gate opening if told. This caused a little problem but I got the cows back into the correct lot. I was told that night this is a direct cause of us not feeding every day. Unfortunately, she is right. We have very little grass left and what little there is is dead. So now every evening we are feeding about 1/3 of what they would get in the winter and it is keeping them happy. I really need to put both cow herds together but I want to tag and band the new baby first. So hopefully next weekend. I had to go back to work and finish making up for lost time. Annmarie had to do all the evening chores.

The upper hillside is an issue now. It was one of the earlier stretches of fence I built. All these early attempts have some “learning curve issues”. I tried to use T-posts but the hillside is just too rocky in places so I built rock cribs instead. They are too small and very ugly. The cows are pulling them over just by pushing on the fence. This is happening to the T-posts also. In the picture above the fence looks fairly upright. I broke a T-post and several other posts are fragile and about half the wires are disconnected and loose. It needs to be repaired. I am going to have to go with the tried and true method. I bend a 16 foot cow panel into a circle, nail a large post to one side and then fill the crib with rocks. This takes about 25 loads of rocks with the tractor. All those rocks have to be knocked out of the ground then placed in the bucket and then dumped into the crib. Before I put these cribs on a hillside I like to attempt to create a flat spot for them so they don’t slide down the hillside.

Thursday I managed to get 1.75 cribs installed alongside the fence. Collecting the rocks is the most labor intensive side of the process. This also helps me in the long run as I pull the rocks out of the pasture to use in the fence line. I have some help lined up to help me on Saturday. I would like to be done with that hillside fence this weekend.

This is the gate area near the top of the fence. You can see the cows are just pulling the rock cribs over. I need to level this gate crossing, level a rock crib pad and install a real metal gate. This has to all be done in one day so the animals don’t escape. Once the upper rock crib is complete I can restretch the fence going up the hillside.