Getting there

Sunday was catch up day. I had big plans for the trim but we really needed to work the sheep. I stayed home while Annmarie went to church (this happens a lot) and I busted out one more window, the largest window in our house. Annmarie came home with the great news that Sarah was going to come out and help with the sheep.

We needed to count the sheep as we had no clue how many there were. We also needed to get a count for how many we were going to need to sell come summer. Plus we still had to tag and band the stragglers from the last two months of random births. We rearranged the barn panels and ran the sheep into the barn. The sheep were pushed down the chute. I like to just wade in and randomly catch the babies but this is stressful on the sheep and I don’t get to do the catching. I sit down on my kiester and have the babies brought to me. I do the tagging and banding. I am the only one with a strong enough grip to hold the banding pliers open and to punch in the ear tags. I have a secret thought that no one else wants to torture the baby lambs but the banding pliers are very hard to hold open and you cannot let them go until everything is correct and there are 2 peanuts on the right side or it doesn’t work! It can be hard to hold open if it takes any time to fish around for the second testical.

We have 100 sheep exactly! We need to sell 40 lambs this summer and hopefully will get another 25 ewes this summer also. Each mother generates on average 1.5 lambs/year. So with 85 ewes we will make 255 lambs every 2 years or 127 lambs/year. We are going to hold off on getting another ram until all the ewes have had babies. There are still a few that are pregnant. We want everyone to get on the same cycle so that all babies will come in a single month. At least all born within a two month period, not constantly trickling all year long.

I have started digging fence post holes in the barn lot for the ram and bull enclosure. I have called the custom wood mill in Reith and will be purchasing some tamarack 2x8x16 foot rough cut lumber to use inside the enclosure. This is the hardest native wood we have in the area and they only do 2 runs a year for this express purpose- corrals. I also managed to get 50 boards of 1×12 x16 foot rough cut boards to finish the siding repairs on the barn. Again I called at the perfect time as they had cut the boards just not run them through the dryer yet. I will be picking those up next week.

I am done with all three windows in the living room and dining room! Unfortunately, I ran out of caulk! I had 18 tubes and used up 17. I ordered 20 more tubes from Amazon and will work on the floor trim when they arrive. I know, Amazon is the killer of local businesses but I waste hours going to those stores and they never have enough as I want more than a few at a time. Its a trade off and Amazon has been good to us so far. I am getting so many boxes now that I am having to burn them on a semi regular basis now.

We have another barn kitty getting used to the place in the barn kennel. We had one die but have seen several around the place. Not sure why the one died.

We also may have a pack rat in the barn! No one has seen it but we are starting to find hordes of nesting material in quantities that mice cannot form. I sure hope not as they are hard to catch and can be very destructive.

Window trim mania

One of the first things to do is get stuff ready. I spent part of Friday and Saturday getting all the tools ready for work. I added wings onto my radial arm saw so that I could cut the L shaped cutouts on the sill plates. Then I had to add a support arm past my table saw so as I ripped boards down they would be able to rest on something. I just clamped a piece of scrap from our furniture project across the end of the porch. I had to clamp my featherboard onto the table saw also. I wish I had some 2×8 board glued to the underside of my table to make clamping to the table easier. I may have to do something like that soon.

I managed to get one window done. I need to level the sill front to back a little better on the other windows. I am installing the sill, then but both inside upright pieces and the top inside piece. This lets me rest the top piece on the sides while I then set the reveal on both sides and staple them in. I use cedar shims always around doors and windows. I run a small bead of caulk on the end of each board so it sticks to the window. I know this makes window replacement very hard, but it really seals the building from stray breezes and bugs. The BUGS are the important reason to do it! I am then taking 100% silicone and sealing the backside of each board to the window frame. This is taking way more caulk than I anticipated. I am making sure to get a nice seal but in some places I am filling a 1″ gap. Yes I know I should have gotten some of that foam core rope to fill the area first but I didn’t do that. I also am hesitant to use that spray in foam insulation, even the low expanding stuff. It puts a lot of pressure on the window and I have screwed up door frames with the stuff and don’t want to mess up the window.

The pattern we used for the window frames is the original one from the house. It was still in place upstairs and we have duplicated it throughout the house. The only place we are deviating from it is the window at the bottom of the stairs and above it. I don’t want to fall down the stairs and hit my head on the corner of the window sill plate. So we are doing a flush mount with square pieces in all four corners. That way when I fall down the stairs it will be the landing that gets me not the fall. Annmarie was super happy that the trim is going in. I will be doing a bug audit to see if it helps cut down on the inside critters.


On Friday I had to go fix fence again. On Thursday the neighbor moved his cows into the pen directly across the road from our property. This means our bull can see a hundred plus cows across the road and starts to immediately think like a teenage boy. I noticed the cows on my way home and vowed to not work on our window trim but to instead fix the fence. Usually, the bull gets out every year at this time. We had noticed a weak spot in the fence a couple of months ago and I had vowed to Annmarie that I would fix it before the bull got out this year. Its in an awkward spot and there is a huge wild rose bush that has enveloped the fence in the way. The only real way to fix this section is to cut out the rosebush and rebuild this entire section. I don’t want to do that, so I plugged the hole with a 16 foot cow panel. I had brought a few more tools but no T post driver. I needed the driver. I ended up having to fix the entire fence all the way up to the gate on top. I put in new staples and Tpost clips where the bull had popped them loose. I added about 8 new wooden stays from scrap on the ground and my scrap pile. Eventually, there will be no more scrap piles laying around. I keep bringing the junk together and throwing it away, recycling it or burning it to clean up areas. This took me all morning long and put me way behind on the trim plan.

Before I could get started on the trim I had to install a couple of extenders onto my radial arm saw stand. When I went to cut the sill pieces I realized I only needed to cut a corner out of them and they would have to be way put away from the saw blade for that to happen. To make that possible I had to add extenders to each side. Its not permanent but I am going to leave it in place until all the trim is installed.

I managed to get all three large windows bottom sill plates installed on Friday. My goal is to use silicone to seal the boards against the window and then fill all the air gap behind the boards with more caulk to make them 100% sealed. This will stop the cold air but more importantly we are hoping it will stop the bugs! There are certain times in the year that they get out of control. This happens to be one of them. It is highly annoying to have bugs everywhere. Annmarie was very happy with the progress.

Bull fence

Today I finished painting the downstairs! I even considered starting in on the wood trim downstairs but I really want to do the windows first as the bugs have started coming around. I have the caulk to seal the wood trim to the window and the walls so no bug can sneak through. But the wooden shims have not arrived yet. I purchased a box of them and they will be here this week. I wanted cedar shims and I am going to leave the cedar closet lining boards I put up in the windows temporarily in place and just put the trim over them. They have helped keep the bugs out.

So instead I went out and started working on the Bull Enclosure. It will house the rams also when we are not using them. We have decided to pull the male species off of their respective herds at least a month prior to anyone having a baby. We don’t want the mothers to be stressed or harassed. I marked of a pen in the barn lot that will allow us to use the old lamb shed and lean to out back as shelter. The shed will be off limits unless we allow access. I have set it up so I have opposing gates that will allow us to block off the shed or allow them access to the shed and no where else. I broke out the hot pink paint marker and a tape measure and put a T sign every 8 feet. I will need to dig 57 holes! I think if I reuse what is present and use the old cedar posts I think I can come up with 40 posts maybe 45. I will buy the rest. I want to use railroad ties in the corners and two next to each gate side. I am going to install a 10 foot gate near the shed and another 8 foot gate on the back side of the fence past the lean to. I am contemplating one more near the culvert, but I don’t think so. Each gate is a weakness to be exploited by the bull. I managed to get 11 holes started tonight. I was unable to drill a single hole down to the depth needed even as wet as it has been.

The mistress was working hard and I had to replace one bolt on the auger and just as it was getting dark the shear bolt for the auger gave so tomorrow I will need to replace it before I can get started. My goal is to get all the holes started this week and then take a five gallon bucket of water and put it in each hole. I will do this every day and then drill it out the next day until all the holes are the right depth. I will start setting posts as soon as I can get a hole down to the right depth. I will set all the posts and put woven wire and smooth wire on the outside of the fence and I will line the inside of the fence with 2×6 boards. I will have to go 4 boards high to provide a sufficient barrier. So I will need to buy 2000 linear feet of 2×6 which also happens to be 2000 board feet. I want to buy 16 foot boards as I put the spacing at 8 feet apart, this means I need 125 boards. I will also need a saw and a whole bunch more wood anchors, another 500. This is the expensive part. That will cost me around $400 just for the metal screws.

I have the 10 foot gate, I will have to go scrounge around in my gate pile to see if I have another 8 foot gate. I may need to use a 6 foot gate.

The sheep have been hanging out on the back hillside. The gate nearest the creek is so badly damaged that it is not useful and needs to be replaced. I have simply not gotten to it and the sheep needed to go out on the back hillside anyways. We have had so much rain in the past few days that the back creek is up about 8 inches and running muddy.

Stock trailer

I finally managed to find a stock trailer! Last week I spotted one for $2500 which was my max upper end. I wanted to spend around $1500. We had been looking for over three months with no success. We had found a lot of horse trailers in that price range but no stock trailer. You ask, what is the difference? Well there is a difference, the first part is look at the back door. It will slide open halfway. This allows you to load animals directly from a chute. The second part is halfway down the trailer there is a divider that can be closed widthways. This allows you to push some animals into the trailer and shut internal gate. This then lets you load more animals!

This trailer is a 1979 model! It has a flat spare and another low tire. The lights only work on the right side and all the running lights are broken. On the plus side it has rubber mats the entire length of the floor. I will be getting it licensed after I fix the lights. The tires will be soon also. We are stoked!

Tax day 2017

Tax day at our house is always an exercise in frustration and irritation. One would think that every year it would get easier, it does not! I attempt to keep receipts every year and on the big ticket items I am very good, but the little things add up and I don’t always keep them. We keep trying but it seems like a certain percentage always get lost and per Annmarie’s mantra, “no receipt, no deduction”. She is not a creative accountant type, she believes in sticking to the rules when it comes to taxes. Over the years I have come to appreciate this approach as it saves us hassle in the long run.

Before taxes can be started I have to do my part. I collate and add up all the farm income and expenses and drop it into categories every year. I started doing this years ago for the blog to track various project costs. We have learned that my projects don’t always fit into the IRS definition of a category. This causes complications when trying to do the taxes which leads to hollering from the office to downstairs, which leads to tension. Ideally, the solution to this would be to find some chore outside the house to do while taxes are being prepared. Normally, this is a solid approach but on tax day this does not work. I know some things that are essential to filling out the tax form due to my unique category building system. This caused so much angst last year that I threw out my divided binder with the “Steve” categories and wrote on the outside of a folder the needed categories. This year I broke everything out by those categories. Those essential categories according to me were: Income- Sheep, Eggs, Cows, Alpaca and Hay. Expenses- Animals, Feed, General, Equipment, Vet, Tractor/sprayer, Business Expense, Fencing, Irrigation, Alpaca.

I am told that the IRS doesn’t officially recognize my need to create categories and has their own system. Income is pretty much the same and can be gleaned from my data set. Expenses however are a little different: Animals, Truck expenses, Chemicals, Conservation Expense, Custom Hire(machine work), Depreciation, Feed, Fertilizer, Freight & Trucking, Gasoline & Fuel & Oil, Insurance, Interest on equipment loan, Rent or lease on vehicles/machinery/equipment, Repairs & Maintenance, Seeds & Plants, Supplies, Taxes, Utilities, Vet/breeding/medicine, Purchased Animals.

I have the new categories written down for next year so hopefully my summary will be more in line with what the IRS and Annmarie want. The only real problem with this is the tax laws have changed and no one is exactly sure how they are going to be reflected next year. So I am going to just keep on plowing forward and hope for the best.

So here is 2017 according to Steve for the farm. Again, we lost money, but we are starting to turn the corner. It has taken us many years to get things up to speed and develop a plan while we were doing the catch up. This fall we will plant the upper bottoms with Roundup ready Alfalfa. We will then buy our own haying equipment in the early spring. We will be putting up our own hay. We are only going to hay approximately 20 acres. We have no intention of doing any more than that. This choice to stay small has allowed us to buy equipment designed for micro farms. We are getting a hay mower, rake and a round bailer that will all work on our 25 HP tractor for around $25K brand new. One of my jobs this year will be to clean out a spot in the machine shed for them to be stored out of the weather to increase their longevity. This change should save us $5-6K in feed expenses and will allow us to sell around $3-6K in hay annually and the sell of hay could very well purchase the equipment allowing us to get “free” hay. In reality, labor is not free just because we do our own. We are confident this plan is sound and I have two of the fields ready to go and the third one is still in the works. It has some water issues that I will be working on in this summer. I am going to round up to whole numbers on the finances for ease of data manipulation so my numbers may be off by a few bucks. I did it to the penny for Annmarie.

Income: $5992

Sheep (76 animals) $5200

Eggs (2912 collected) $792

Cows $0

Alpaca $0

Hay $0

Expenses: $16, 731

Equipment $3933 (old tractor to get running after the shop $327, flatbed trailer to get welded supports and repairs $1172, Pickup repair, new tires, new brakes and new muffler all were broken $2295, fuel for tractor 47 gallons $139)

Vet $568 (Mouse $197, Zeke $371 he had a fox tail in his ear this summer)

Tractor/Sprayer $526. (Mower repair $180, herbicide $275, insecticide $71)

Business Expense $40

Fencing $1926 (30 yards of Gravel $635, 500 wooden stays and 122 used T posts and several rolls of smooth wire and clips)

Alpaca $706 (Shearing table was all of it, I was able to shear all the animals in one day with the table. We looked at buying one but it was around $2k. It is the only way to shear more than 1 or 2 animals. This is now all stored in our barn. We are working on making connections with people to work on sorting and roving it. Annmarie will do that this summer).

Irrigation $93 (power for the pump, we didn’t use the pump much this year)

General $268

Animals $2609 ($2500 for 21 adult breeder sheep)

Barn Improvements $238 (this year I need to finish the siding and raise the walls in the momma area again, we had sheep jumping out over the walls I did not raise. I would also like to build two more wall feeders.)

Feed $5825 (Dogs $285, chickens $60 we had a bunch of food left over from last year this caused us problems due to the mice problem so we have worked on upping our cat population for rodent control instead of buying poisons, Cows $3500, Sheep $1758, Alpaca $200, Cats $22)

Total loss for 2017 $10, 739

So if we didn’t pay out $5k for feed and sold $5k worth of hay we would break even and our cows are now where they need to be as we have 10 cows and by next year they will all be bred. So that will be around $5-6k in sales. Our hope is to be profitable in 2 years. It has taken us quite a while to get here and there is definitely a learning curve to doing it. Also, it takes time to build herds and fence. If you don’t use time then you have to have a lot more cash up front.

Yard fence

I came home early on Friday just so I could work on the Gizmo fence. He has learned the many splendors of the snack potential in the barn and surrounding area. As soon as we let them out to potty he is running for the fence and squirts through the 4×4 hole. Once he is out of the yard he will not come back. It does not matter if you can see him and call him. He pretends he doesn’t hear you hollering “I can see you!”. So I will be installing a 2′ chicken wire fence using hog wire clips. It was cold, windy and rainy that afternoon. I used 1500 clips before I got cold. I only have a few hundred clips left and will have to order a few thousand more to finish the job.

I went to Bimart to get bagged dirt for our elevated trough beds in the back yard. It was a wonderful sunny day so I grabbed a bunch of different herbs with the intention of planting them outside. Once I had all the dirt unloaded and planters ready I opted to actually check the weather on my phone. No go on the herbs, its supposed to snow three days out of the next week. So I took them up to the breezeporch to survive another two weeks. Annmarie wants to create planters that go inside a tin can on our 3D printer so that all the herbs can go in the kitchen windowsill. I am afraid the herbs won’t get big enough if we keep them inside. We are starting to really like cooking with fresh herbs. I am really starting to like the idea of an underground greenhouse 10×20 feet long. I want to grow a few citrus trees, tomatoes year round, herbs year round and greens year round. I think it will be very cool. Water will be the real issue but I think I can store a few hundred gallons in 50 gallon barrels that will get us through the winter. Annmarie has agreed to listen to the plan and it is on the list for next year. I am sure it will cost $2-4K. Our wood trim arrived on Friday. Everything stained and finished I just have to cut it and install it. This is everything for our entire house. All the doors, all the windows, all the floor trim and the trim necessary to complete the stairway. It of course started raining and wind blowing on Saturday that caused me to finish covering the trim. I had covered it up after delivery but I had left open the left end and a few garbage bags with some tape closed it all off. I cannot install any of this until I finish painting so on Saturday I started to paint the downstairs. My goal is to finish all painting this week. So hopefully I can start installing the trim next week. My plan is to bring in the air compressor and then setup the chop saw on the front porch.

We had another set of twins born this week! The babies just keep coming. Next weekend we will have to tag and band the babies that have not been touched yet. This mother was so crazy we felt the need to lock her up with the twins in the momma area. She jumped out over the back wall! I am now going to have to raise that wall by 18 inches and raise the height of both gates just to keep these crazy mommas inside the pen. We locked her in the barn alone with her twins for four days so they could gain some strength to be able to keep up with the herd. Our internet sucks and is slow. I have discovered a way to speed up my picture uploads to the blog. I climb up the ladder 24 feet in the air and use my cellular data plan. Instead of each picture taking me 2-4 minutes they only take 10 seconds. This is a farmer update that most people will understand.

Internet hotspot at the top of the ladder!.