My bladder made me do it!

You ever get that feeling that says get out of bed? As I approach fifty this sense of urgency has gained prominent attention. Last night I had to wake up at 0300 to pee as I forgot to do it before going to bed. I crawled back into a warm bed hoping to spend the rest of the night warm and blissfully uninterrupted. I was dreaming about these weird deadly creatures that only come out at night and were wiping out mankind when Annmarie jabbed me in the side and whispered “Do you hear that?” Something had cut through my dream but I was unsure if the deadly creatures were on the run in my dream or if it was external. It was external, some odd chittering sound. I had sudden hope that I might get to avenge my untimely departed chickens. The real trick here is time and stealth. Every time I have stopped for a coat, made noise or tried to sneak around on this night terror it has gotten away. That was not going to happen tonight, I got out of bed very quietly and went right downstairs to grab Killer (Walther P-22 pistol with laser sights). I usually load the pistol outside but it was time to change up and get serious so I racked one in, slid the safety off and laid my finger alongside the barrel. I snuck back to to the laundry room and peeked out into the dark. It is dark, I cannot see anything! I reach over and fumble around for the outside light switch. I had left all the lights on the back half of the house off so the predator would not see me coming. I flicked the porch light on and there it was, my Nemesis, a raccoon! I flicked the light off, took one second to ready myself and flicked the light back on and ripped open the door. I led with Killer speaking the language of death. This is where each of our actions have led to our current relationship. I got one “word” off while it was still on the porch attempting to get away from the cat food. I got a second “word” off when it ran left in the back garden. It remembered that the old house was safety and flipped a U-turn and headed back that way. I got off a third “word” which caused it to run behind a trough planter. Killer and I were a team, we followed the predator’s every move and spat out our language every time we had a clear view. There was a fatal flaw in the raccoon’s plan, it had to climb a fence and once it got in the small walkway clearing it realized it could not squeeze through the fence. It was too late, my bladder had taken control of my body and insisted that this event end right now! I just kept pulling the trigger until Killer ran out of breath. Now was time for another crucial conversation, was my bladder going to win or could my desire to see this through to a dead nemesis prevail? It has been too long, we have suffered under the burden of being preyed upon and it had to stop. I ran back into the house and grabbed a second big breath for Killer so we could say our goodbyes. Now normally, I would have just stuck the holster onto my pants, pajamas, robe whatever I was wearing but since I was not wearing anything this did not happen. Killer and I rushed back because my bladder was disagreeing vehemently with our decision to finish the conversation. Annmarie hollered down and asked if “I had gotten it?” She offered to bring down the 30-30, her preferred raccoon eliminator after her raccoon attack but my bladder won this point as we knew the delay would cost us. When I went out onto the back porch the raccoon was not moving, three “words” later I was running for bathroom. I had to pause at the door to unload Killer and drop it onto the couch. My bladder had taken control but Killer and I managed to get the final word in.

I made it in time! Always a great feeling. At breakfast Annmarie informed me that a raccoon has been terrorizing my mother-in-law and tearing into her bird feeders and opening desk drawers on her front porch. Hopefully, we have eliminated the problem and now if my stupid chickens don’t get in before the automatic door closes it won’t be a death sentence.

Help is always welcome

Three years ago my little sister, Chris came home to visit for the holidays and we had her out to the house. This year she came home for a White Christmas! A fairly spectacular one at that and she came out on Saturday to see the baby sheep. We always take the opportunity to tag and band when people come out to visit the lambs. This necessitates someone holding the smallest lambs after we catch them. Annmarie does all the catching as I am the designated tagger and bander. I am the Bander, controller of the Banderator, the rubber miracle delivery device. It has four little prongs that when you squeeze the handle it spreads the prongs apart creating an opening in the center of the very small rubber band. I use two rubber bands always now after a previous early learning experience where we ended up with several rams. The real problem is it does take some hand strength to stretch the rubber bands and to put the tag through their ears. You have to miss the blood vessel running down the middle of their ear. There are times I have a sneaking suspicion that Annmarie could do it but this way she doesn’t have to inflict pain upon the lambies. Chris enjoyed holding and cuddling with the lambs. Even after years of doing this there is nothing quite like snagging 1-3 day old lamb and snuggling with it. It is a guaranteed stress reliever.

On our drive out to the farm we spotted a huge Bald Eagle soaring over the property. They are beautiful birds and we usually see them once or twice a year passing through. I casually mentioned to Annmarie that I would not mind them sticking around. She then reminded me of Rule #2 to live by “Everything loves Chicken!”. This could cause me problems so I am currently torn over this dream. I wanted peacocks but they are loud and scream “help me” in a woman’s voice at the most inopportune time, so now I want Bald Eagles.

I had to go down and feed the cows a new bale and found a dead calf. Now I had just been down with the cows three days prior and had seen no calf. This one looks like it was still born. I tossed it in into the tractor bucket and then drove to the barn and got the two deceased lambs that had been on deep chill in the snow before it melted the day before. I drove them all up to the boneyard and found that there was a 10 foot cleared circle beaten down into the ground where the ram parts had been. There was not a single body part left of that ram! Were it not for the beaten down circle I never would have known where I tossed his carcass a week prior. We have not seen a single coyote. We hear them all the time but none have come within sight of the house in months. Its not safe for them and they know it. Santa brought me a coyote call in my stocking. I need to try it out. Chris spent some time spoiling our Border Collies and trying to get Gizmo to like her. She did make progress on the Gizmo front. He is not super people friendly. She made better progress with the collies!

As the world turns

As always something comes up, whether you want it to or not. I was reminded yesterday that the cows probably needed food as they had tipped over the feeder. Usually I can get 1-2 days after the feeder gets tipped over as they are just trying to get to the stuff below the solid panels. But with all the snow on the ground I felt sorry for them so I opted to feed them early. I had been charging my car battery in the hopes that it not starting was just a fluke. So I walked out to the machine shed to start up the tractor with the dogs in tow. The dogs are a necessity as the cows will bum rush the large hay bale as I attempt to push it into the field. I jumped onto the tractor, put my hearing protection ear muffs on and turned that key expecting it to start. I was disappointed. It did nothing but light up a couple of lights, no tick, no noise whatsoever. Luckily, we spent $2500 last year to get a single 110v outlet and light out to the machine shop!

So I grabbed the charger from the car and put it on the tractor. I then had to unload the propane tank and all season tires from Annmarie’s car out of the back of the pickup so I could use it to haul hay. We still have some 100# bales of alfalfa in the machine shop so I loaded up six bales and drove them out into the pasture and tossed them into the feeder. The nice thing about a moveable feeder is I move it every time I feed otherwise the cows create a mud pit. We are still feeding at the far end of the field away from the houses also. In the spring I want to drag a set of discs all around the field and spread out all the leftover hay and cow poop, maybe I can get it to mulch in.

The horse’s hooves needed cleaning out as it looked like they were walking on ice bubbles. It takes some effort to get those broken up enough to scrape them off the hooves.

My chickens are causing me grief again. I thought I was down six hens due to the raccoon and then this week number 19 magically appeared in the coop one night when I was counting them. I had been spotting this random hen out in the barn before the snow came down. Annmarie spotted it yesterday in the barn. We have no idea where it is roosting in the barn but it is not returning to the coop at night. It is just wandering the barn digging through the sheep and horse poop as content as can be. Tonight when we went out to do chores it was digging through horse poop and we caught it. It is now living with its comrades in the coop. This is chicken number 20! So the raccoon can only be credited with killing four hens now.

Annmarie called me today to say that when she went out to feed in the morning that the twin miniature babies were ice cold. They were totally limp and not very responsive. I asked if their new mom had abandoned them but she said they were curled up against mom. All we can figure is that she is not producing enough milk for the babies and they are unable to get enough calories to stay warm. She called to ask if I would come tube feed them. We have never had to do it before but you just insert a tube into their stomach and give the formula in with a syringe. I told her they were most likely not going to make it and just try her best. She put them by the gas stove and fed them every 5-10 minutes little dribbles until they got warm and strong. They were both sitting up and looking around 6 hours later! We gave them to the housekeeper. She now has 9 bummers from us! Its crazy how many problems we have had this year. Including the two that have died that’s 11 sheep we have lost out on for a cost of $770. We still have at least 10 ewes that need to give birth still. They are all our older more experienced ewes. We figure they avoided the ram the longest. My sister is visiting family this week and is coming out on Saturday. We will tag and band all the babies again to get caught up. To know if the baby has been tagged or banded you just look for the floppy lowered left ear. The ear tags weigh down their ears for the first couple of weeks. Its easier to spot the low ear than the actual tag from across the barn.

On the plus side, I did not have to go fishing for a retained placenta in one of the ewes tonight. She had passed it today on the second day. I have a pack of 100 shoulder length gloves that I have only used 5 out of in the last 5 years. I am hoping to continue the streak of infrequent utilization.

All I wanted was a nap

I’ve been fighting the holiday plague this year and so stayed home on Christmas Day. Really, all I wanted was to go back to sleep in the hopes that I could finally and completely kick this bug. The big dogs were outside and had asked to come in, so I opened the door, and heard the dreaded cry of a lamb. I am physically unable to ignore that cry. Yes, I know that nine times out of ten, it is just a temporary separation between mamma and baby, or the first cry of a newborn, but that one time out of ten when there is a problem keeps me going out to check. So, I came back in and drug my sick carcass back to the laundry room where the cold weather gear lives. I suited up and trudged by way out. Sure enough, there was a brand new little single. The ewe was attentive but jumpy and every time I tried to move the main horde out, she tried to follow, with that little newborn in tow. Since it was clear that she was attentive, and the lamb was doing well, I opted to just lock everyone in so she didn’t drag the poor little thing out into the falling snow.
Newborn lamb surrounded by ewes.

Mika was standing at the entry to her dry area looking pretty miserable. I think her healing foot gets a little achy when it gets cold, so I let her in and brushed the snow off her foot while I was out there. By this time I had exhausted my energy reserves, so I went back inside for my postponed nap.

A few hours later, it was approaching an early feeding time, and the ewes likely needed a chance to get some water, so I once again donned my cold weather apparel and waded through the snow out to the barn. The single was fine and had been joined by yet another new arrival. No, not a twin, although I thought that was the case for a minute, but one of our yearling ewes was paying attention to the newest arrival. She, however, was just as jumpy as the first mamma, and I just wasn’t up to the rodeo. Everyone was doing there jobs so I once again opted to leave them alone. I did open the doors and let everyone go to water if they wished. They apparently were no worse for the wear, as there was not a rush to go out in the snow. It was late afternoon by this time, so I went ahead and fed, mostly to keep the new mothers inside and calm as they adjusted to their new additions. I really do enjoy hanging out watching the babies bounce after I have fed, and I’ve missed this as the ram had made it impossible unsafe to just hang out in the barn. I find I’m not missing him very much.

I texted Steve (he and Sarah had gone to his mother’s house in town for Christmas dinner) that there were two new singles in the barn, and that everyone had been fed. He would just need to make sure everyone was in their designated nighttime locations and close gates and doors when he got home. He must have been enjoying his conversation as he did not respond, but I was ready for another nap. When he got home he delivered my gifts and plate from dinner (thank you Robbie) and went out to settle everyone. He found a total of three singles, all from first time mothers, but all doing well. But really, two trips out to the barn were not in my plans for the day.

Barn demise

Annmarie is still not 100% but on the mend. This means I am still on chore duties until she gets better. I opted to start the day with oatmeal, toast and coffee. I am never in a hurry in the morning so I was prompted to speed up and get outside. I had shut the wooden chicken coop door last night as it was still a little light out when I got eggs. The finches were inside the coop, there must have been around 12 of them freeloading on the chicken feed and I did not want them coming back in or the chickens leaving. The raccoon has killed 5 chickens so far as they are too stupid to go behind the locked door when it gets dark. So I let the chickens out first then headed to the barn. Well there were three new babies in the barn and they looked like triplets as only one momma was paying attention to them. I ignored them and opened up the barn doors so the sheep could go outside and get a drink of water. Next I went to check on the momma with twins I put in the stairway area. Only one baby present, I had to dig around in the straw to find the little demised fellow. I went to the slider door to let the momma’s out and found another dead lamb trapped down next to the door! It had fallen down into the 3-4 inch gap and was on its back and could not get out. So both the carcasses went out by the gate and will be taken up to the boneyard soon. They will be well preserved in the snow until after the holidays. I fed the mommas and looked out into the barn and there were now three ewes with 5 babies and one huge orange baby covered in slime who keeps hollering and walking around. No one will claim the baby and after two hours I had to take the baby inside and dry it off so Annmarie could feed it and get it warm. Another bummer for the housekeeper, her 7th one this year and so far they have all survived. I tagged and banded all the babies before coming inside with the bummer. I wanted to give her a chance to bond and I needed to empty out the baby area and start over.

I went and got tools so I could do the two essential repairs to the barn. The first one was to dig out the straw and install a low board below the new feeders so a lamb could not slide under the feeder and get trapped. This went fairly smooth.

Next was to fix the gap problem at the sliding door. The opening is 3-4 inches wide as my 3 inch wide tape measure is buried in the deep end of the door. I had to do some digging to find a couple of scrap pieces of wood that would work, amazingly it was tongue and groove flooring and the tongue was intact and visible. I was able to find a piece of leftover tongue and groove flooring unfortunately the barn is crooked so I beat it into place and see a diagonal line across it. On one end I trimmed off almost two inches and down to nothing at the opposite end. I screwed in two boards to fill in the bottom support then cut my floor board on the table saw so I could make it fit.

Here it is with less than a one inch gap between the door and the floor. I even placed a 2×4 outside to keep the door from kicking away from the floor creating another gap. It looks kinda funny as this wood is perfectly clean but that won’t last.

While I was working on the barn Annmarie texted me to tell me there was a ewe with twins out in the snow. I told her no there was not as I had gotten everyone in and fed an hour earlier. I looked while we were on the phone and yes she was right, twins covered in snow with momma trying to lick them clean. I chased all the ewes back into the barn then swung a gate panel to create an opening into the momma and baby area. The brand new moms from today are in this enclosure. They all did well.

I had to go out late tonight to lock everyone in as its Christmas Eve and that same ewe had both her twins out in the snow. They had frozen snow every their entire body. I chased the ewes inside and tossed the babies after. She was already calling for them.