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.

It snowed and the chore time doubled

We are going to have a White Christmas this year. It is always amazingly pretty to see all the snow, it blankets the ground and covers all the imperfections. Unfortunately, it brings its own set of problems. Everything is harder as I now have to slog through six inches of snow. I attempted to shovel the sidewalks and a couple of paths through the yard but was unable to find a snow shovel. I was positive we had one in the wood shed, I was wrong. I ended up using a broom to clean off all the walkways, cars and front porch. I also looked for the extra 50# bag of ice melt I “knew” we had left over from last year. Nope, it was nowhere to be found.

After creating paths, cleaning off the walkway and a path all the way out to the cars I cleaned off the cars themselves. It got just over freezing so I was hoping the snow would melt after I cleaned it off. I was fairly successful with this technique. Now that didn’t include the time I ended up on my keister after my feet become horizontal faster than my body. I hooked my car battery up to the charger. We just got the car back from the auto body shop and the next day it would not start. Now it was a very cold morning so I am not ruling out a bad battery after sitting idle for 3 weeks but the charger will let us know if it is truly dead or they didn’t get something hooked up correctly.

When I made it out to the barn, there was a new set of twins and a very jumpy mother. I tried to casually sort out the mother with little success. There were four ewes with white and black heads. I finally managed to corral them all into a corner and jump on a white and black headed ewe. I was wrestling her to the ground and trying to pin her down when I realized she was the wrong one. I gave up trying to catch her in the barn and opened up the chute, about half the mothers crowded in. The one I wanted foolishly followed them and I was able to wade in and snag her. The trouble was I had her babies in the main barn and she was stuck in the chute. I ended up just heaving her over the pen wall into the baby area. It was a struggle to get her over the wall. I snagged both babies and dropped them over with her. I found one under the feeder again! I had stuffed more straw under the feeders but the sheep keep dragging it out and the babies keep laying under it. Next summer I will be installing boards so that the sheep cannot get under the feeders. I just need to make a spot where the cats can get in so no mice have a predator free zone.

Next was driving the tractor up to the boneyard to drop off the ram carcass. I had to use speed, four wheel drive and positrack, to get up the back hill. We have a good six inches of snow on the ground. I was able to get up the hill after a couple of tries. On the way down the dogs and I stopped to let the mommas out to water and to lock Mika into the old milking area. It is now covered in straw and she will be spending the days and nights in there to keep her hoof dry while it heals. She does not like this so I will let her out this evening to go drink while I do the sheep chores and then lure her back with food and grain. The horses and sheep are very compliant when you offer them grain.

Next was clearing the driveway down to the road of snow. I like to do this whenever we have any significant amount of snow. This comes from living somewhere with lots of snow. Always count on the next day bringing more snow so you need to get it removed every day or it will get away from you. I also need to move a large bale of hay down to the cows. This is very hard when the snow is deep. I drug and pushed a path all the way down to the cow gate. I then got the dogs and pushed a bale down to the gate. The dogs were placed just inside the open gate to keep the cows from escaping and bum rushing the hay bale. I pushed the bale to the far end and wrestled the feed panels around it so the cows could not stomp it all into the snow. This should keep them happy for the next five to seven days. Mouse decided that he needed to save me instead of guard the gate. He is still a little too eager we need another year to mellow him out. By this time I am cold to the bone and headed back inside to warm up.

I needed to get Annmarie’s birthday present finished. I had a custom cutting board made for the kitchen insert out of Madrone with black walnut accents. The problem was I gave the measurements incorrectly. I measured from the 1 inch mark and forgot to subtract that extra inch. I took it out and ripped 3/8 inch off each edge and sanded it back down. I will use one of the cut off pieces to add a lip on the front of the cutting board. The lip is so when Annmarie lays it on the counter to use as a bread making board it won’t slide forward. I just need to get some black walnut 1/4 inch pegs to make this happen. I put it in place and put a bow on it as today is Annmarie’s birthday. She is miserably sick and has slept most of the day. We had to cancel our birthday dinner plans for tonight.

When I went out do do evening chores there were another set of just born twins! These are tiny little babies and both were wet. I ended up chasing everyone else out of the barn and laying down straw in the stair area. It’s its own area that we normally don’t use. I made a thick layer of straw and put hay and grain in it. I snagged both babies and dropped them into the straw. She came right in but kept running out when I tried to shut the gate. I finally managed to get the gate shut on the three of them. Hopefully, she will finish cleaning everyone up and be well bonded by the morning. No way those two twins would have survived the ram.

It’s supposed to snow some more tonight!

The deed is done, it is now safe to go out to the barn

We slept in horribly late this morning, till 0700. Annmarie thought it was decadent, I told her once every couple of months of not getting up at 0500 was not going to hurt us and most people would not consider 0700 sleeping in. I had big plans to go outside and work on the Christmas present but alas it was not so. I was thwarted by the ram one time too many. It happened again, another bummer lamb this morning! This is just not acceptable. As promised I switched my schedule around to accommodate the demise of said ram. After breakfast I had plans to put him down and a helper was coming out at 1130. I would have been at it for a while by then but there was a true emergency that took priority.

One of my mother-in-law’s cats was stuck on her roof and it needed to be brought down. Annmarie and I went down there, me with a large ladder. Annmarie crawled around on the roof top trying to catch the cat who did not want to be caught. There is a large tree next to the house that I am sure assisted the cat onto the roof. I hollered encouragement and comments while she was chasing the cat. It had been up there for 3 days. My reply was it was not hungry enough. Turns out that was true because someone had fed the cat on the roof so it would not get hungry. Annmarie finally managed to corner it on the outside edge of the roof and snagged it. The cat tried to pee on her out of fright. Everyone ended up coming down off the roof safely and my mother-in-law was happy, a job well done. I did actually put the ladder away where it belonged for the first time in six months.

It took both of us over ten minutes of searching to find the 10/22 rifle. I thought it was in the gun cabinet until Annmarie brought me the 243. I was never sure how she knew what rifle to bring as it was always a crap shoot as to what caliber I got when I asked for one. Turns out guessing was her main tool. She did not know that the caliber was written on the barrel and she could just look. We did not find the 22 rifle in the gun cabinet, or the coat closet or the laundry room or anywhere else we thought to look. I gave up and grabbed the ever trusty Walther P22 pistol. Annmarie questioned my choice as the pistol has a questionable kill ratio. We were discussing the merits of the pistol vs my proficiency with it when I spotted the 10/22 rifle leaning up in a corner behind the display case. I had moved it there when I was painting the stairwell wall and had forgotten it. I went with Killer, and put Laser Eyes back in the closet.

We had had multiple discussions about the best way to put down the ram. The general consensus was that a 22LR directly between the eyes would probably not kill him. They have an incredibly thick skull. I opted to test this theory and shot him in the barn near the door from about 15 feet away. He did not do anything but turn and run out the door. I had to wait for the sheep to mill around and get out of the line of sight so if I missed no one else got hurt. I did hit him in the head every time and he did finally go down. Luckily he fell with his head pointed down hill so I was able to cut one set of carotids with a knife and he bled out very well. This is important to keep the meat from tasting as gamey as it could be. By this time my helper had arrived, a slaughter virgin. He had never skinned out or cleaned an animal before.

I got the tractor and the virgin tossed him into the bucket. I tried to back down the hill to the little foot bridge but the hill was causing me to slide into the fence. Next thing I know the virgin was hollering at me because the tractor was on three tires and trying to tip over or slide through the fence. He stood on the upside of the box blade and I was able to pull right out. He didn’t realize that sliding around on three tires and almost tipping over are normal events for me. I lined up on the bridge and drove straight off the hill and over the little bridge and through the little gate. It was faster than going around. I then proceeded to clean out the animal giving instructions to the slaughter virgin. Once cleaned out we hooked onto it with spreading bar and lifted it up onto the skinning pole with the tractor. We then skinned it out and boned it out. The virgin only cut himself twice and managed to not do it so deep that he bled on the meat, extra bonus points for this. I had brought out five knives but no sharpener. We needed the sharpener. It is a lot harder to cut meat with a dull knife. We took it inside, washed it all up and proceeded to turn it into stew meat. I could not bring myself to turn the backstrap and tenderloin into stew meat. I cut it all up into steaks. The ram was incredibly fat! There were huge goblets of fat throughout his entire inner cavity and along the outside of his back and chest. Now that he is no more we are hoping we have to feed less.

As you can see in the picture below, Annmarie is incredibly sad that her nemesis and torturer is gone.

When she went out to feed the sheep tonight there was another set of twins born in the barn. They were both with their mother and bonded and doing well! If this continues it will be worth it. Even if we had just removed him for our safety it was worth it.

It has snowed 2 inches since it got dark tonight. Another reason that will cause the sheep to want to stay in the barn. It is now safe to just walk through and feed or play with babies without worrying about getting injured.