Sorting sheep

The sorted ewes waiting for us to be done. Today was sort sheep day and our daughter came out to help. The day started out good, coffee and breakfast with the wife. It went downhill after that. I took the dogs to go out and get the sheep. They had squeezed through the gap in the upper prime pasture and were in with the cows. The trouble with this is even on the way out to the sheep the dogs did not want to listen. It went downhill from there. I had no voice by the time I got the sheep into the barn lot. No one would listen, each dog thought he knew best and chose to just ignore me. We had to choke down the dogs several times as dominance was the issue. It was excruciating to be around, probably the worst day in the last year. Usually when one dog is off its game the other will work but today neither one wanted to step up to the plate and play ball. Annmarie and Sarah got the sheep into the barn and started to sort them. I really felt like a third wheel as there was not really anything for me to do. I did end up catching a boy that got into the girls and a girl that got sorted into the boys.

The boys waiting to go to the orchard. They will be the companions for the new ram we are getting on Saturday. We are going to keep the ram off of the herd for at least a month.

Our chute system is so nice! It was expensive but in all reality it is super efficient with two people but one person could do it. We sorted 101 sheep in an hour using the chute system. We even managed to snag the new baby and it was a girl so I only had to put a tag into its ear. We have had around 400 lambs born on the farm since we have moved here. I just keep ordering higher number tags so we can keep a running tally.

Annmarie took these pictures while they were sorting the sheep and I love how they turned out! I had to add them to the blog. Sarah did a great job helping us today.

After the whethers got moved to the orchard, this involved the two noncompliant dogs and a lot of yelling and swearing. I went out to mow some more grass and weeds.

I had not been to the upper pastures for the last two weeks. The weather and rain has been good for the weeds! Some of the weeds are over 6 feet high and very thick. I tried to mow next to the channel I dug in the upper prime squared pasture but I was just guessing where the channel was. I was doing pretty good until I got to the part where I had dug in a side channel. I tipped the tractor onto its side and had to stop it from rolling with the front bucket, which caused the water to dam up. I had to walk back to the house and get Annmarie and the pickup. I gave directions to her while she drove through the field that she cannot tell where the ditch or fence or anything is located. She did not like this. I chained up to the back of the tractor and ran the chain over the top of the mower so when she pulled my back upper wheel was pulled down into the dirt. This took three tries to let me get the bucket and the mower rearranged after each attempt until she pulled me out. She was a little hesitant to drive out but I assured her that if she went in a straight line back to the gate she would be okay. She made it without any difficulties. I kept mowing for another 3 hours. I have a good 8 hours more of mowing to do to get all the weeds knocked down. After two weeks I will then spray the fields and kill all the weeds and grass that are growing. After that I will hit it with the discs again.

Annmarie texted me that dinner was ready so I started to make my way back to the house. Just along the fence by where we store the fencing and gate supplies the weed were growing well. I thought I would get in there with the tractor and clean it up. Now I was unable to burn this this year as my nephew did not move his trailer and I didn’t want to burn with it that close to the fence so there are still a lot of dead tumbleweeds alongside the fence. I didn’t know I was in trouble until the tractor slid down the embankment and into the fence. The mower is caught behind the wooden fence post and I cannot get out again! I am going to have to go out, disconnect the mower and cut the fence in half so I can just drive the tractor out. I am pushing on the wire almost a foot now I just cannot get it out. So now I will need to fix the fence directly after retrieving the tractor so the alpaca don’t get out. If its any consolation dinner was excellent.

Visible progress

It is coming along nicely. I have sold myself on the idea that I need the help doing the trim so I have crossed it off on my to do list and am moving on to other things. Yesterday, I started to mow the property. I mow different spots through out the farm in an attempt to keep our herbicide usage down. I have still not managed to get rid of the cheat grass that is everywhere. I am told there is a fancy spray that may do it but with my luck I will need an applicators license and that is just one more hoop. The mower works if you use it often. My ideal mowing conditions are windy and rainy. This may seem odd at first but after 6-8 hours on a tractor with no cab getting bounced around and breathing dust all day it makes perfect sense. The rain keeps the dust down and the wind ensures that if there is any that it will blow away from you if you have adjusted your mower trajectory to take advantage of it. It started to rain just as I went out so I thought I would get lucky, no deal, Mother Nature only teased me and did not deliver the goods. Using a little four foot wide mower it takes about 4 days to mow the entire place. I put in a solid day yesterday and got the barn lot done, the area around the houses and out buildings and driveway. I started mowing the upper prime pasture and got it about 30% done.

My tractor, the mistress, needs some TLC, I need to hammer out her hood, give her a good bath and an oil change. I may even shoot some paint onto her scratches and rusty spots! She needs to stay in working shape as next year its haying time at this time of year.

I really need to remember to take a wire brush and some WD40 with me when I go to hook up the mower. The PTO gets a little dirty and slightly rusty and the mower connector does the same. This makes for an incredibly hard fitting connection. It almost wants to go but just will not slide that last 2 inches! This took me almost 20 minutes to get connected. I had already cleaned off both pieces with my gloves and gotten all the dirt and surface rust off. It just would not go and its a ten minute turnaround to go get spray lubricant. I also have a can that the propellant is dying on so it may not work. I thought about spitting on it but figured that would just make the rust worse. I ended up using the oil dipstick from the tractor to get enough oil to slick it up so I could get it to slide on! This had an added benefit of letting me know its time for an oil change. I think I still have about 40 hours of run time on the meter but its coming up quickly.

This tight work on the back of the tractor can lead to some unintended consequences. I decided to wear my Apple Watch yesterday as I am on the volunteer Quick Response Team (QRT) for the local fire department and most people are out of town. I cannot hear or feel my phone in my pocket when on the tractor. The Apple Watch always gets my attention so I thought it would be a good idea. When I went to hook up the PTO for the mower I discovered some hay baling twine wrapped around one of the back tire shafts. This stuff is bad around moving parts as this is how I lost my U joint in the pickup two years ago. So I was leaning over the tire whacking away at it with my semi sharp knife when I get a phone call. Its the 911 dispatcher wondering if I am okay. She can hear the tractor in the background and I am on headphones with a microphone so I can talk on the phone. I tell her its an accident and I am okay. If you didn’t know, constant pressure on your Apple Watch will call 911. I cannot remember if its 15 or 20 seconds but it does work. This is the second time I have done this. My phone is also set up to alert my medical provider and she called me about 10 minutes later to see if I was alive. I assured her I was, I should have texted her after the 911 call. So yes, those emergency features on your iphone and Apple Watch really do work! As in all things good there were a couple of casualties. We had purchased a round pen last year that I used to protect the large bales. I had moved it and thought I had every piece accounted for, but I was mistaken. The mower found a piece hidden in the grass. I “fixed” it with some bailing twine. Its almost as good as new just don’t get your ankle to near the fix. I had brand new mower blades this year installed by Muscles, luckily Mr Experience double checked and got them right. After a few hidden rocks they don’t look so new any more.

I am looking more forward to the welding class this fall the farther into summer we get. I need to start a list of all the things that need to be welded and fixed. I want to make our back fence for the garden, custom porch railings for the front yard, custom upright pole braces for the back yard deck clear cover (this one is very last), stair railing, more horse shoe gate latches, multiple gate repairs, custom fence made from thousands of horse shoes (I need the horse shoes and a location for said fence but I am doing it just not sure where). The possibilities are endless! I now know where I can get things powder coated and I have a 16 foot trailer so I am set!

I spent Friday picking up the wood for the Bull corral and to reside the bad parts of the barn. It is too nice! I found about 15 pieces out of the 50 that are amazing looking. It would be a crying shame to put them on the outside of the barn. I may have too but honestly I think I only need about 12 full pieces to get the entire job done. I am also thinking about hammering out the front barn addition this summer. I will have the boards left over from the bull enclosure and I have the leftover boards in the barn that I can cobble together and make a path from the mother enclosure to the L shaped grain enclosure on the other side of the tack room. If I was smart I would have put the tack room in the L shaped area and used the other for the sheep. I just didn’t think we would need the sheep space that badly. This actually works out better as I will be able to build a platform to stand on to install the upper window in the end of the barn. I will use scrap tin for the roof and I think I even have enough of that laying around. Screws will be the most expensive part of the whole project. The pieces are all there. I even have a couple of old windows I can put in that end of the barn! Mr Experience makes headway every day. I have a picture below of the before trim with dark curtains to hide the window frame. This worked well and was cheap! It did not keep the bugs out.

This is what the windows look like now! A vast improvement I must say. Now we don’t want to put up curtains. It is bright in the morning, there is no sleeping in as the sun blasts in and lets you know its here. Luckily, we don’t sleep in but a few times a year. So we are now looking at a cloth, paper like blind that mounts inside and can stay up most of the time. They are not super cheap so we will be doing one window every few months until we are done.

Honestly, the house looks like a house now not a construction project. When I get the spare bedroom floor finished this fall I think I will do a quick sand job on the breezeporch and paint the floor with the stain we used on the outside fence. The floor was red at one point a long time ago. Once that is done I can build my custom reloading bench! Guns, dog kennels and live plants, maybe even a hydroponic garden will be my man cave area.

Zeke is causing problems again. He knows without a doubt now that he can dig his way out of the fence. So if we are not inside the house and he is off the run he just digs a hole out. He did it again yesterday when Annmarie went to her mother’s house. He could see her car so he just dug his way out. This means that I will have to take some time tomorrow to bring in 50 large rocks and line the fence. So if he digs down the rock will just slide down into the hole. This has worked in a few of the holes so far so we hope it will work for the whole fence. He is so painful.

It is really happening

Spring is really here and it is amazing this year. We have a lovely green color growing everywhere. This is not normal for Eastern Oregon and now it is starting to cause me problems. I need to mow and I need to spray weeds. Correction, I needed to spray weeds three weeks ago. I ordered the parts for the tractor mower last week so hopefully they will be in by Friday so I can actually mow this holiday weekend. I will be doing the typical farmer holiday and working frantically every day to play catch up before I go back to the paying job on Tuesday. I really want to get the bull enclosure worked up. I would like to be 60% complete by the end of the weekend.

I just love looking out our back kitchen window or our living room and being able to watch the sheep wander and play. It is very relaxing. At 0300, when the bedroom window is letting in all their hollering for momma I am not near as magnanimous.

While Annmarie and I go to work every day, Mr Experience and Muscles have been working on floor and window trim. It is so painfully slow, it just makes my pocket book ache! Every time I think about it I remind myself that it took me 2 days just to do 3 windows and nothing else. It helps put things into perspective. I am going to have to make another bank run.

The realist in me realizes I simply do not have the time. For this project to get done I need to pony up the cash! My time is more valuable than my money. Plus every day when we come home the house looks better. It looks good!! I complain about the money but by the time we are done with our entire remodel we will only have about $85-90/sq ft into the house. In the current housing market this is not even obtainable and we have used items with longevity and style reminiscent of our turn of the century home. So I need to be grateful and just pony up the cash!

It looks amazing. Not to take away from the house but my pullets keep dying. I had another three die this week. I think it is that virus that I get every spring. I think the ducks bring it onto the property but it only usually affects 6-8 chickens every year and mostly the new ones at that.

Our house truly is at the end of a rainbow. A home is made by love and hard work. I truly do love where we are now and how things have turned out in our lives. We are where we need to be.

Auction day

I got called into work on Friday night and managed to get out before midnight. As I was sitting in my car contemplating driving home I decided to read the paper and spotted a college farm surplus auction the next day at the local community college. I convinced Annmarie we should go in the morning, I think she really just wanted to go back to sleep. My argument was that by the time I paid someone to help me build a bull corral we could have just bought most of the panels at the auction for cheap. My only real fail in this thought process was that other people would think the same thing. We transferred money over into the checking account and drove the pickup and trailer into the auction on the off chance we would score lots of stuff. Unfortunately a lot of people came for the same thing we did. This made the bidding for some of the gates and panels steep. We had to bail on several gates and panels as they just sold for too much. We did score on the metal T fence posts and ended up getting over a 100 at only $1/each. I usually pay $2/each at the junk yard. We ended up with 244 lineal feet of panels, three corner horse feeders, 100 + T posts and a heavy duty welding table and vice. I wanted to get the welding table repaired from the machine shop but for $25 I got a much heavier table and another vice, which is way cheaper than I would have paid to repair the old. Annmarie got me signed up for the evening welding class this fall at BMCC , two nights a week. I am really looking forward to it as I am going to build our custom metal railings and back yard fence. I will just buy the material and weld it together myself.

The only real trouble with this is we stood around on the hot pavement in the sun for over five hours then loaded heavy panels onto the trailer and realized that this would not be a one trip show. When we got home I had muscles help me unload and then we went to get the second load. It filled the trailer and the pickup again. This time when we got home we unloaded and built a section of fence for the bull corral out of panels. We built it over the rock bluff portion of the enclosure. This is going to work out very nice. I will still need to build several rock cribs but it will be much faster than trying to dig into the rock. I have 2000 lf of 2×6 tamarack to pick up from the wood mill and 800 bf of 1×12″x16′ for the barn siding. I plan on doin this on Friday.

Mr Experience kept on working on floor trim while we did the outside work. I had a coworker come out and borrow my disc set. It went onto my trailer with some difficulty but it got easier after Annmarie made me remove the 400# of iron weights from on top of the discs!

Annmarie and I had to go get our bull from the neighbors place. He keeps sneaking over there to say high to the heifers. Unbeknownst to us he has had already been over visiting three times before we found out. The neighbor had been pushing him back through the culvert to our side of the road.

He was at the top of the hill and would not budge for Annmarie. We were going to push him down to the road then across it and over through a gate and into our property. He had other plans, first of which was not moving for any human being. He was a despondent rejected bull and he was not going any where. I had to drive back and use both dogs to get him moving. He ran right for the panel that was covering the culvert from the opposite side. I ended up wading into the creek and lifting the panel. Annmarie swore he would not go by with me standing so close to the opening. Once he figured out I was opening the gate he went right around me. I had brought some tools and extra 1/4 inch cable to install across our side of the culvert and then weave it into the panel in an attempt to keep the bull on our side of the fence. This whole process took about an hour to get completed. The best part of this was when we held the barb wire apart and told Zeke to jump and he popped between the wires but Mouse did the same thing with some encouragement. This was a first for him and he loaded up into the back of the pickup by himself and stayed in the back of the pickup! All of these are great accomplishments for a working dog.

If you look closely you can see the wall for the bull enclosure going up. I will need to set at least 3 rock cribs in place to hold the fence in place.

I am going to keep having Mr Experience and muscles come out and work on trim. Muscles stacked some loose wood in the barn and greased the tractor and fixed my truck exhaust also. I took him up on his offer to fix things. I even ordered new blades for the mower and as soon as they arrive I will have him install them also.

Just a little trim…

I was trying to get everything ready for my help that was coming on Thursday afternoon early in the week. I had done the trim on the air return and figured I better stain it ASAP. Unfortunately, I waited until the last minute and had to stain it Tuesday morning before work. Since Annmarie is gone there are fewer rules so as I am staining the return in my underwear, it was morning. I had made a slight spill around the top of the stain gallon can and went to hammer the lid on, oh my, the stain splattered everywhere! I got it all off of the floor and missed some on the wall which is going to cause some touch up to happen. This splash was noticed after the stain had already dried. My second attempt to close the lid on the stain involved dropping a cloth over it to catch the splashes and still pounding the lid on. It had more mess to offer but i refused to accept it.

I finished it but had to leave it in the house due to the weather. It was supposed to rain. I left the front and back doors open in the hope that a breeze would remove the smell. My cross breeze idea seemed to work wonders as the smell was almost gone by the time I got home. Annmarie did not care as she was sleeping off her Washington DC flight and time change.

The air return turned out very nice! Most people will hardly notice it now. I do believe this or its just a justification for putting in many long hours creating a custom piece to hide an ugly air return in our main living space.

Thursday, Mr Experience came out to help me with the trim. He brought a helper that is going to help him this summer with roofing two houses. I will now and forever call him Muscles. Since I was late getting home, Mr Experience had Muscles mow the lawn! Best thing that could of happened this month. They even had to reassemble the gas line and get it going. I let it air dry out after the diesel fiasco. He finished the lawn then started weed eating, this is so nice! Eventually, he let me know that he had a mind and liked to tinker with stuff.

Mr Experience and I worked on floor trim on Thursday. We decided on a 45 degree angle on the quarter round as I did not want to catch my pinky toe on the edge of the trim. Annmarie thinks its for cosmetic reasons.

Kinda working

I did do some work yesterday and a lot of online shopping. I love Craigslist and am starting to like Facebook Classifieds also. I am always on the lookout for fencing material as I am constantly running out of it. We just found a ram on the Facebook classifieds and I found this cool chest yesterday. The best part was it was in Pilot Rock. I put in an offer on some fence gates early in the morning but was unwilling to pay what they wanted. I stockpile extra gates as I always need them so I can wait for the right price. I managed to get this wonderful trunk in the early afternoon and went to pick it up. I am always amazed by small towns. the lady selling it knew Annmarie’s grandparents on both sides and her daughter used to maintain Jim and Ruby’s lawn and garden while they did their summer Oklahoma pilgrimage. She offered me some flower planting’s from Iris’s old flower garden that she took over 30 years ago! So I will make arrangements to get some transplants this summer.

I take some of my best pictures accidentally! I was fumbling with my phone camera trying to get shots of the trunk to send to Annmarie, as she is in Washington, DC for MathCounts. I snapped this beauty below and decided that it was a keeper!!

I also managed to glue and nail on the trim for the air return register. All those pegs are covering up a screw hole. I countersunk the screws so I could put a dowel in the hole and cover them up. I just filled the top of the screw with glue and pounded in the dowels. This caused glue to ooze out around the dowel. I glued all the oak trim pieces and then used air gun to nail them in place. Since it was just trim I did not clamp them on after I did the glue and nails. I figured that the glue and nails was sufficient to hold the trim in place. I wanted to give this 24 hours to dry before messing with it. I would like to get it done and stained before Annmarie comes home. It will stink when I stain it and with this weather I need to do it inside the house.

I managed to snag 7 panels 8.5 feet by 3 feet for the barn. We need another portable wall inside to allow us to give the mothers more room to be with their newborn babies. I really need to add 10 feet to the front of the barn and hook it over the L shaped area that is unused on the other side of the tack room. I have not done this yet and will not have time this year. Next year I want to do the greenhouse so the addition is a couple of years away.

The lady from the morning messaged me and said they would take the price I was offering. I offered to get them today. Nope, they wanted them gone on Saturday. This I do not understand as all things take time to sell. But I offered to meet them in Pendleton, then her husband blew out a tire by Echo, I ended up driving to hermiston, getting gas and having to drive back to the broken pickup. I was able to make the transaction in the dark, on a side road off the highway. Not the most ideal circumstances I agree. I texted a buddy to call me back and my location before getting out of the vehicle and I had the killer attack dog Gizmo with me. He stayed in the pickup keeping warm. I follow the same rules for craigslist, always carry cash and always go armed. Smart meeting places cover most of the problems but weird stuff happens. I have met some very nice people buying on the internet, very few bad experiences. It gives me faith in mankind.

One of the gates will be used inside the barn. I think I can build what I need for about $400 versus the $1500 in panels I was going to have to buy. It won’t look as pretty but it will be very functional and the sheep are pretty easy to please.

Today I got the air return all sanded and ready to stain. I have a hard time getting the dust off of a project and ended up taking a very damp rag and wiping everything down to get the last little bit of dust. This looks great and I totally want to get it stained. I just need to wait a few hours to make sure there is no leftover water on the project. I suspect if I was shooting for a satin smooth finish I could not use a damp cloth as it would cause the wood fibers to lift.

Birds are here

Life is happening every day around us. We keep seeing more and more birds and are now pretty sure that this pair of ducks have been coming back for several years. I spotted them up the creek last week when I was discing and Annmarie saw them down by the house the other day. If I can get the shallow ponds dug this summer I may line a 8×12 foot section of bottom in the lowest spot with a pond liner. This should act as a very durable weed barrier and allow a small open spot of water to be visible in the spring in both ponds which will hopefully entice the ducks into nesting.

We looked at the spring head again yesterday and the watercress is starting to fill up the waterway again. I have to pull it out several times a year. I think that two domestic geese are our answer. I don’t want ducks as they are not tough enough. I think the geese will survive the predator attacks better. Unfortunately, I don’t want super mean geese that bum rush us whenever they see us. So far I have only found one pair that someone is willing to part with and they are super aggressive. I don’t want them chasing the sheep or cows. So maybe next year I raise my own.

We had not seen the quail in a few months and were afraid that they might have all gotten eaten. But yesterday Annmarie spotted them on the back hillside. Hopefully this year we get the quail back in droves. We only usually have one to two coveys on the place. This is why my mother-in-law doesn’t want the hunters to shoot quail. The pheasants are like weeds, no matter what we do they come back and are plentiful. Eventually, when I run out of tasks and hobbies I would like to contact the ODFW and try and get a remote setup to raise quail with minimal human interaction so they are wild and turn them loose on the property. I am going to start putting cow panels around the rose bushes in an attempt to create more habitat.

Annmarie spotted five barn owls on her 2 mile drive home yesterday. We have lots of hawks of different varieties but the owls are usually an occasional sighting phenomenon. We only see our great horned owl every few months now that it has moved down to the schoolhouse. There used to be a mated pair but we have not seen them together in years and I am not a birder, they all look alike to me.

We are also now seriously talking about a large subterranean greenhouse heated by passive solar energy. All these food scares and bacteria outbreaks really make you conscious of the food chain. The shorter the chain the better.

Now that the weather is changing the working dogs have started to get overheated. An hour out working the animals and they start wandering over to the creek to lay in it, drinking is secondary to immersing their bodies. Last year we shaved them and they did great all summer. They were much more comfortable and worked better for us. Sarah shaved them for us last week and they are getting used to it. Mouse thinks the process is humiliating and hides for a day or two afterwards. They both look kinda funny for about six weeks until they get a little hair back. It also makes it much easier for us to find ticks on them. This wet weather has caused the ticks to come out of hiding and we have found three already. Gizmo is taking his cues from the big dogs. I make them wait and sit before they can have food and he so wants to come eat but he keeps looking sideways at the other two and they are holding still so he waits.

We sent out a deposit on a new ram for out flock today! We figured that May was our six month mark and we should be safe to get a new ram. Yesterday during our walk around we spotted as brand new baby lamb born hours earlier, they just keep coming!! We are going to get a full blooded Katahdin ram this time. He has good genetics and the breeders are doing genetic culling and comparing them in a national database for growth and disease traits. Way more work than we want to do but so handy for us to look at when choosing a new ram. If this guy works out good for us we may keep him for several years and use that farm in the future. Here at Muttville Central we want happy healthy animals that are super self reliant. This is a harder task than you might imagine as the industry has bred self reliability out of a large portion of the breeds in an attempt to concentrate on size, growth rate or fat marbling. We are looking at disease resistance, ease of birthing, twins, growth rate, size and ease of handling for us these characteristics determine how many animals we can raise and how well they do.

This is why we have a mix of three main crosses, Katahdin, Barbados Blackbelly and Dorper. There are certain characteristics of each breed we like and we keep mixing in different rams and keeping the sheep that meet our above requirements. Its working well for us. We don’t vaccinate, we worm every 1-2 years as a precaution. We have never had any type of infection go through the herd that killed any animals. We had ORP, basically a oral herpetic type disease, go through a couple of times it came in on some sheep we purchased. That is it, no other problems in 8 years. We totally attribute this to our low bioload. The animals have so much pasture to roam on that they just don’t sit in one place and live. This also accounts for why our animals are such good grazers. We also allow the animals access to shelter year around and in the winter we lock them up in the barn every night. The barn gets dug out every year and fresh straw laid down throughout the winter. Now that we have upped our barn cat population I have not seen a single rodent in the barn!