I came home on time today after picking up groceries for Easter brunch. The sheep are “mowing” the front lawn so you have to be very careful as you make your way down the steps, across the bridge and onto the stepping stones to the front porch, there are a lot of sheep bombs. I had two loads of stuff to bring in and on the first load I failed to latch the gate securely. This caused a mass exodus from the front yard out into the car area in front of both houses. I managed to spot it and stop about half the herd from leaving. So now we only need to get 40 sheep back in instead of 80. I told Annmarie I would be right back and took the dogs to get them back. We wandered out through the ram pasture. I have been popping thistles all week with my pocket knife and spotted a few I missed so I got those. As I walked by the bridge over the ditch I noticed that it was clogged with tumbleweeds so I waded in and pulled all those out and an old piece of tin I found. I slowly started heading to the barn. I let the horses out and closed the front barn lot off and left the main gate open so we could push the sheep into a secure area. This is when my phone rang, Annmarie wanted to know where I was as she was heading out to help and the sheep were now down at her mother’s house and she was trying to push them toward our house because the alpaca were herding the sheep.
We had to push them around her house and back up to ours. Just as we got all the gates shut and were headed back to the house Annmarie spotted a ewe that was stuck in the orchard and her baby was in our front yard. She went to go deal with that while I snuck off to take care of chickens. After grabbing my second egg the cell phone went off, it was Annmarie there were two separate babies separated and where was I? I left the eggs and went and helped corral the last two sheep. All the sheep were behind the barn and we were getting ready to go inside when Annmarie looked up on the hillside and spotted the Bull outside his area. He was on the open hillside which means he had to have pushed through the creek crossing after I tried booby trapping it. This contraption had lasted for almost three weeks without him thwarting it. I was able to go up to the hillside and have him follow me up and through the gate. I even managed to find a coffee cup out near the fence that I had forgotten when I was building my contraption. The bull ambled down toward the other cows and all was good with the world. We headed back to the house and just as we got to the hillside gate we spotted the bull going through the ram pasture. He had gone down and pushed through the creek crossing behind the house and then went straight to the creek crossing behind the barn he tore up last year and up to the fence next to the heifers. It looked like he had spent a large portion of the day alongside the fence. It was pushed over in areas and there was a beaten path alongside it. Annmarie tried to push the bull back out with the dogs but this went no where as the dogs kept circling around and pushing the bull the wrong way. Annmarie had to be in to town so I took over. It took me another hour of pushing him around to get him to go back down to the other cows.
It was painful for me, the bull and the dogs. I then had to go up to the incomplete fence line and wire up the upper gate and wire up the two bottom gates. I then went and redid the creek crossing behind the house. Then I went and got a heavy metal gate and wired and tied it in place over the ram pasture ditch crossing. I used a lot of bailing twine to get it to hold. There is no flex in that sucker now so he cannot shimmy under it. I also cleaned out the ditch for about 30 feet while I was here. I wear rubber boots all the time now when working outside. It works for me and I can easily clean them off. I need to get in here and rework this fence crossing. I have just about decided that I need to string cable across the bottoms of the ditch so I can clip in the panels during the summer so that the bull cannot lift them. I need to do five separate crossings this way to keep him in. I really need to build the bull enclosure inside the barn lot so we can keep him separate from the heifers when we want.
Tomorrow I will be completing the fence running up the back hill and installing all the gates in that fence permanently regardless of what the weather is doing. I need two fences between him and the heifers.
Gizmo and Bo, the cat were keeping Annmarie company while she worked until eh home office today. They were sucking up a little extra heat from each other and the freestanding heater.
These are the financials for all of 2017. I want to preface theses numbers with a disclaimer. I have not even reviewed the numbers prior to writing this blog entry so as to not be influenced by its results. While inputting all the chicken egg financials I noticed one disturbing trend, the chickens kept getting more and more unproductive as the year progressed. They were laying machines at the beginning of the year. When we went on vacation the chickens started getting eaten by a raccoon and we lost seven while being gone 16 days. We went from 23 hens down to 15 then I bought 10 grown hens in December in the hopes that they would lay better. This was a bad deal as most were just freeloaders which is probably why someone else was getting rid of them.
On average I had 20.1 laying hens (A decrease of 4.3 from 2016) giving me 8 eggs/day(increase 0.6eggs/day) for a productivity rate of 39% (9% increase). Again, they were laying gangbusters the first half of the year. I am feeding on average 154.2chicken feed/month(decrease 12.5#/month) for a grand total of 1850# for 2017 (150#decrease). My monthly feed bill is $32.32/month (decrease $6.37/month). My feed costs are $2.00/doz (decrease of $0.28/doz)with my total cost of production at $2.32/doz (includes feed and bedding and ten adult hens). My chickens are consuming 0.64 lbs food/egg produced (decrease 0.10 lbs/egg). I believe a large part of this is the decrease in number of chickens but one could assume fewer chickens eat less food but it doesn’t really work that way. It is costing me $0.13/egg (decrease of 0.03/egg) in feed. This feed decrease will go away this year. I had horrible problems with mice last year and they destroyed about 400# of chicken feed. I had bought in bulk to save on feed expenses but I am unwilling to have the mice destroy that much food and they lower the quality of the feed. So we are combating this problem by importing cats. We have homed three fixed cats that are still kicking and have two more in a kennel as I write this acclimatizing themselves to the barn before we let them out. We are going for four more barn cats. When we can see one or two throughout the day we have enough. It had gotten to the point were you could go days without seeing a cat. That causes a lot of mice problems. It also causes raccoon, skunk and possum problems. The cats won’t fight those animals but they do pressure them to not stay. I have collected 2912 eggs to date (increase in 217eggs). My total feed costs are $425.64 (decrease of $37.75).
In summary my income was $792 and my total expenses were $424.88. In 2017 I made a profit of $367.12!
This will be my best year for a while. I expect to pay out an extra $150 in feed costs due to not buying in bulk. So I made $30/month for the year for approximately 6 hours a month. So $5/hour, seems fair. This for the BEST eggs you will ever eat. Ours are true free range that have access to running water year round, bugs, grass, animal poop and all the bugs they can eat. All that protein makes a huge difference to how the eggs taste and the variety of their diet makes for some amazing flavor. Annmarie does product testing and infection control by eating a raw egg in her smoothy almost every morning with nary a side effect. Buy them from us, first dozen is free!
I am working on getting that color on the walls. No color goes on in one coat. I haven’t found any paint that goes on in one coat. Painting is the worst! Its kinda like bamboo torture without the blood. Its just as painful. I am down to one wall in the living room and the hallway. I just need to plow forward and get it done. Unfortunately I keep getting distracted by other things.
We have been trying to get the sheep to eat down the ram pasture and they are getting out onto the back hillside. The only cure for this is to drop the panels down into the creek bed. This cannot happen as we may eventually have some kind of Spring runoff from the mountains and the fence cannot be in the water at that time. Very bad for my fence. This has led to the dogs getting to work the sheep. Both border collies are very happy with this arrangement. The sheep are starting to get used to the dogs pushing them around again. It helps when both parties know what is expected of them.
I have removed the wooden roof from the stock racks and all the wire and extra bolts from it. It is ready to go over to Hermiston and get sandblasted and powder coated. It really isn’t that expensive. For $325 we can get it looking good as new and won’t have to worry about it rusting in our lifetime. I need to find the time to get it over there.
I did get the color on the walls in the living room. It took a few days for us to get used to it. Once I get the curtains hung and the window trim installed this will look very nice. We almost have a finished house! Doing the paint and all the window and floor trim just leaves two bathrooms and a floor to finish in the spare room. Not bad for a total tear down and gutting of the structure. I am sure that after I boasted it would only be 2 years when we started and it has been 10 that Annmarie might not agree with me 100%.
I have been playing catch up last week. I am trying to do multiple things at once. This is not working well for me. I just keep flitting from one thing to the next. I had to put the baby chickens outside. I wanted to paint and they are so dusty I needed to dust every day. I called it quits when they started sitting on top of the water dish. They are growing like weeds out in the baby area of the chicken coop. I have also managed to not catch the coop on fire this time with the heat lamp. I have enough concrete board to line the baby area this summer so it is fire proof.
I am currently trying to convince a coworker to raise two geese for me past the gosling stage or about 2 months old. I want to try keeping them up at the spring head and see if they cannot keep the waterway clean. If they can then I will move them to different sections of the waterway to keep it clean versus me having to pitchfork it clean three times a year. I am trying to let some livestock work for me. I hope it works.
I have one wall in the dining room done and the kitchen done. Next up is to get the color on the wall near all the windows. Our trim is stained and ready. I just need to get it delivered and then start installing it. That will be a big job. I figure it will take about 2-3 weeks to get it all in.
We had another set of twins born four days ago. They were premature and absolutely tiny. This puts them at a high risk to not make it but their mother is psycho crazy! She bolts and bounces off the fences and gates whenever we get near. We managed to lock her in the barn for two days with the twins. The first one died that night just too little to live. The other one is hanging in there. We locked them in the momma area and let them out of the barn but the crazy momma got the baby stuck across the fence then would not go into the barn. No matter what I did she just kept bouncing off fences and bowling the baby over. I finally just let all the sheep in and mixed her and the baby in with the herd so she would calm down.
This strategy of mixing her in with the herd has worked so far. The baby is still alive and she is giving it a workout. We are now using the sheep to mow the yard and front hillside. This serves three purposes:1. I don’t have to mow it.
2. The sheep get extra food.
3. I don’t have to fertilize it.
This is a win win situation. Its called natural growing, the only problem with it is you have to be very careful walking down the concrete path for about a week until they are done and I have had a chance to hose off the concrete and bridge.
I finally managed to do something I had not done yet and get the tractor high centered. This doesn’t seem like a big deal at first but I was going downhill and pushing a huge rock so I was not paying attention to the rocks in front of me. I ended up getting both back tires off of the ground! I had to use the bucket to push me back and four wheel drive to let the front tires push us off the rock. The mistress yet again came through for me.
I really wanted to get the last two rock cribs filled up with rocks today. Surprisingly, I did not wake up with my back feeling like I had been kicked repeatedly. My butt felt like i had hiked for 25 miles and was sore all over, so i must have been lifting right. I was attempting to maintain perfect posture while lifting. I started around 0900 and only took a light coat and light hat. Yesterday, I started out with too many clothes and had to keep taking them off. I just decided that to stay warm I could work faster.
My goal for the day was to clear the rocks from one side of the new fence line so I can drive the pickup down the fence row to work on it. This proved to be harder than I anticipated. The rock cribs hold a lot of rocks but the hillside is littered with them. I hardly made a dent. There are a couple of patches where I got all the rocks. Looking up on the hillside you really cannot tell where I picked rocks. I stopped for a lunch of Gatorade, granola bars and hot coffee from the back of the mistress. Some people wonder why I work so hard at home. The above picture is why, it was an absolute beautiful day, no wind, not too hot, sun was shining and spring is coming. I sat there and drank a cup of hot coffee from a thermos I had in my tractor canvas bag. It was an amazing cup of coffee.
I also got the road cleared of rocks almost to the top of the hill and graded out a spot for a six foot gate to be installed next to the vehicle gate. This way we can open the small gate for animal only access.
I now need 35 T-posts, 35 wooden stays, four railroad ties and two horizontal supports for H braces. The real question will be if I can drill four holes with the tractor. If I cannot do that then I need to build two more rock cribs!!
I realize that this may seem like an obvious statement but have you really thought about it? I had lots of time today to contemplate this reality. The panel would normally cost $24 and the post around $14. Then after filling a couple of rock cribs I can say it takes three hours to fill one! Three hours of knocking rocks out of the ground with the tractor and then hand loading them into the bucket and dumping them into the circle with the mistresses help. She is as hard worker and really needs a bath. After said bath I need to take a hammer and beat out some of the dents and spray a little green paint over her rusty spots. She deserves to be pampered a little every once in a while. I only had one close call today. I had managed to get this humongous rock into the bucket then felt it necessary to throw in more rocks until the bucket was full. I backed down the hill to the rock crib and then lifted the bucket high in the air as I approached the metal circle. Just as I was attempting to tip the bucket forward the tractor went onto three tires and tired to tip over. I managed to keep the three tires on the ground but could not empty the bucket. I finally managed to back up enough to dump the bucket out onto the ground. I had to make three loads with the tractor to get it all into the rock crib. I am now only grabbing one rock when it fills half the bucket. It’s just too hard to control the tractor with that much weight on one side of the bucket. This is exactly why I keep the roll bar up on the tractor and wear a seat belt.
I had Annmarie do the math, there is 84 cubic feet in each rock crib. That is a lot of rocks! A whole lot of rocks. I am hoping to get the last 1.75 cribs filled. Once that is done then I can go put the hole post auger onto the mistress and see if she can drill two holes up on the very top of the hill for the upper gate. If I can get both those holes in I can install two railroad ties and build a H brace. Once the H brace is in I can run fence the entire length of the hillside. This will then let me install the upper and lower 12 foot gates. This will then just leave a ten foot open section on the bottom of the fence near the house. I will need to add another 4 foot circle and fill one more rock crib. If I can get the cribs filled and the H brace built tomorrow then I will be on schedule with the work. I need 35 T posts and 34 wooden stays. There is one more spot I am not sure I can drive in a T post.