Almost ready to plant

I had to go buy another piece of equipment to work the fields. We now have an arena groomer. It has a harrow on the front, an adjustable bar to press down on the soil and a rolling compactor wheel of bars behind that. It is really helping compact and leveling the fields. I am almost done with the two middle fields totaling 14 acres. I should get them finished today. I was going to do it yesterday but got called away on a long EMS call and we had plans for dinner so instead I spent almost 2.5 hours attempting to clean out the craft room downstairs. I had stacked all kinds of stuff this winter when I did the floor then I used it as a painting area when I repainted the downstairs. I have only mounted three things on the wall since painting. We are going to thin out about 60% of the items we had up on the walls. Some of them we have had a long time and we had a bunch of wildlife prints that are going to go. Annmarie wants to keep one of them.

To make room for the items in the craft room I had to go up and empty the upstairs bathroom area. I tossed a lot more stuff into the trash. I now have managed to clean out a wall in the craft room. This will be the future home of the sewing table from our master bedroom. Once the sewing desk is moved downstairs I will clean that corner of our master bedroom and get help to move the dog tag stamper into our bedroom. I need to get it away from my plants on the breeze porch. The humidity is causing it to surface rust more than it was. I am still gaining ground on the dirt and rust but I don’t like losing progress. This will keep it away from the humidity and I will make a plastic tent for it with a desiccant container under it. I also found the glass shelves for one of our display cases! They have been missing for 11 years. I attempted to put said shelves into the cabinet but it has a skeleton key lock on it and I cannot find the key now! I tried all our ones stashed in the house and did not get a fit. I also bent a metal hanger and attempted to trip the lock with that. I was very unsuccessful, this does not bode well for my safecracking endeavor. We will now need to find the correct key, some days you just cannot win.

I now have two books on how to crack a safe and a suction cup microphone to attach to the safe. I hope I can hear the tumblers as I attempt to crack the four digit code. If not I have been researching oscilloscope apps for my phone that will display the sound as a waveform that I can watch. I still have a $200 reward for anyone who can crack the code without damaging the safe and they must give me the working code.

On Friday I managed to dispose of all the old chemicals that had been in the machine shop for a very long time. I loaded up about 50 gallons of liquids. I had about 12 gallons that were unknown and of those three gallons were in glass jugs. I double bagged and taped them all up and placed them in boxes and laid down plastic. Everything they wanted done to safely transport them to the pickup spot. I wanted to thank the Oregon Department of Transportation for sponsoring the disposal and paying for all agricultural disposals. I may have been able to use some but I have learned that keeping hazardous old stuff is not beneficial in the long run. I now just need to pull all three fuel tanks out of the machine shed, build some storage shelves and tear out the platform in the one bay and we will have a super usable space. I will drag the dirt floor with the tractor and get all the loose dust out and then backfill with gravel. I figure it will take me at least forty yards of 3/4 minus gravel to cover the floor. The gravel will help make it much cleaner.

The deer decided to come down near the house and eat some green grass. There is not very much green around our place. There are four deer in the picture. I just found out yesterday that deer season starts next weekend! I need to go buy my tag this week so I can spend the 2-3 hours hunting it will take me to shoot a little spike buck.

Lets blame Roundup

It has been a whirlwind ten days on the farm. We are trying to get ready for Winter and there is lots to do still. Last week we had four cows killed at our house. Three we sold as live animals and we are going to eat the fourth. We got the bull with undescended testicles. I figured when he was little that I just could not find them to band and that as he got older they would descend, they never did. He was a bull, no question despite the shriveled up scrotum. Short of surgery there was no way I was going to correct that issue. We are going to have cube steak, steak, stew meat, hamburger and prime rib out of him. We still have a pig coming also next month in a trade, two sheep for a pig. Plus, I got a buck tag also and will be shooting a small buck off of the farm, there are no large bucks here. The small ones are way better eating.

On the cow front we just spotted another newborn calf yesterday. Usually, we don’t see them for a couple of weeks but this one looked less than 24 hours old. We will wait a couple of weeks before pushing them all into the corral so we can tag and band. Hopefully, we are only tagging as we have had all boys so far this year. I think there are a couple more still due. We will look when we run them into the corral.

Our sheep guy came on Wednesday of this week and picked up the last 15 lambs for sale, they weighed around 50# each and were very wild. The dogs had trouble moving them and the dogs have been thinking they know what is best lately. Mouse is going to have to go back on a lead rope until he can figure out right and left. He is now convinced that a straight line is the fastest way to get to the prey every time. This may be true but it doesn’t help herd them through a gate. He also runs in and cuts one sheep out of the herd immediately which scatters the herd every where. We are now throwing his ball in the house with left and right commands to get him used to them again. He is 2.5 years old and we always seem to have a teenager mentality at this age.

I managed to find another 10 ton of small bale alfalfa. We had to feed about 6 ton of feed this summer due to the sudden dry weather which caused all of our pasture to dry up and stay that way. Once the sheep started to get picked off we tried to keep them close to the house and this limited their pasture options. We have now let them have the entire bottom to roam and they seem to be doing well. We look for carcasses and have not spotted any.

We are trying to get the upper fields prepped for alfalfa. I got some advice this week and I can tell that I am not cut out to be a farmer. Here is how the advice went.

Me: I want to plant Roundup ready alfalfa, but its expensive so I only want to do it once.

Advice: Alfalfa has to be planted fairly shallow and it needs to have three leaves on it before the first frost or it dies.

Me: What if I just plant it now will it winter over?

Advice: How moist is the soil now?

Me: Its dry, dust now.

Advice: How loose is the soil?

Me: Its loose down at least 8 inches

Advice: You need to smooth out the surface and break up those dirt clots so you get good seed to soil contact. You should also try and compact the soil so you will get an even planting depth.

Me: What about freezing?

Advice: Look at the future weather forecast. You want to get the alfalfa in the ground, have it rained on and grow three leaves before you get a hard frost.

Me: So a killing frost were it has a solid freeze?

Advice: yes. Do you have a seeder?

Me: No, we sold them last year. They were old and I had no clue how to use them or fix them.

This continued on for about 15 minutes. There are days I really wish my Father in law was still around. I could have learned so much more instead of trial and error.

All of this convinced me that getting seed in the ground soon is necessary. To achieve this goal I took the tractor out and and hooked up an old drag I found in the barn made out of three old 2×12 boards bolted to a 18 inch piece of steel with two hooks on each side. I drug that around behind the tractor for five hours. This did help but now I have a smoother field with definite hills. I need a couple more pieces of equipment to smooth out the field and compact it down. I also had five hours to think about $3500 in alfalfa seed. I have come up with a new plan. I am going to still smooth and compact down the two fields I have been working on. I am going to rent a seeder for my tractor and plant pasture grass on those 14 acres this fall. I will make this my only priority until it is done. Then I am going to disc up the upper little 7 acre patch and leave it alone. In the spring I will spray it down a couple of times until I can get in the field and work it smooth. I will then rent a seeder and plant it in Roundup ready alfalfa. We probably won’t get a crop off it but it won’t die either. Then we can talk about putting one more field into alfalfa the following year. If the grass does well we may not plant another alfalfa field. This is safer and if I lose the grass over the winter it will be a lot less hit to the pocket book.

If anyone knows when we are going to get a nice soaking rain and when the killing frost is coming please let me know.

I also need to pickup the 10 ton of hay and get it loaded into the machine shop sometime also. All of this will be done by hand.

I also start evening welding classes in two weeks on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. These are very necessary as I have a 20 foot hay elevator that needs some welding repairs to make it functional. Not to mention the horseshoe fence I want to make. I am on the search for 3-5K horseshoes if anyone has any leads. I will pay better tonnage than the scrap metal places. Please keep the horseshoe fence on the down low, Annmarie is still not convinced it is a great idea. I keep telling her that she just cannot see my artistic vision. She was against the wheel fence out by the main cattle guard initially when I first wanted to do it.

Who is a bully?

I had been watching the Asian pear tree fruit ripen.  The fruit was excellent last year and I had been looking forward to it this year.  Yesterday, when I went out to move the sprinkler I noticed the tree was covered in yellow jackets. The fruit was being eaten down to the core while hanging on the tree.  I did not want to share with the stinging predators so I stripped the entire tree.  The fruit is a little green but it is still pretty sweet.   I put a bunch of the fruit in the kitchen window to turn yellow.  Next year I am going to have to do something about the insects.  I will set out traps for the yellow jackets.  Our plum tree has some horrible leaf curl and all the fruit fell off, I would like some plums next year.  

When we were on vacation I brought home some new plants!  I got all the cactus starts planted and I hope they take. This plant is very cool, when it gets large it sheds little pieces of itself like worms coming out of the ground.  I will be happy with even a single plant.  I spent Monday morning repotting lots of plants.  I trimmed all my house plants and in general played on the breeze porch.  I even just sat in the rocking chair and listened to my book on tape for about an hour.  After lunch I spent about two hours working on the dog tag stamping machine.  I think I am going to have to move it from the breeze porch into our bedroom.  I have some new surface rust on it and I believe the water evaporating from the plants is increasing the humidity.  I am going to make a plastic cover for it and put some desiccant under it so it is as dry as possible.  I just need to get the sewing machine moved downstairs into the craft room then I can fit the dog tag machine in the corner of our bedroom.  What do you have in your bedroom?  I have a manly dog tag machine, 300# of cast iron steel, designed to cause permanent letters into a metal disc!  Doesn’t get much more manly than that, it will go well with the handmade quilt and cross stitch sampler on the wall. 

Yesterday evening Annmarie hollered at dinner time that the alpaca were picking on one of the other alpaca.  This is a daily problem, but she insisted it was way worse than normal.  I told her to let the border collies out of the yard to break up the fight.  The alpaca did not want to give up on the fight and just chased the dogs away.  We had to go out and the alpaca still did not want to give up the fight.  Annmarie had to literally chase the bullies away and keep after it as they kept coming back to get in more licks on the injured alpaca.  The weird part about this is we had them kill a black alpaca two years ago.  The three white alpaca kept after it until they finally killed it.  This time the victim was a white alpaca  When we went out there were four alpaca on top of it pinning it to the ground.  Once we got everyone off of it we determined it was still alive.  We tried to help it stand but it would not move and could hardly lift its head.  I ended up dragging it about 40 feet by its back legs until we got into the barn lot and through a gate.  It was moving a little more after the drag but still not very active.  Annmarie brought a bucket of water and set it right next to the injured animal.  I was hopeful that it would just rest up and be okay.  We had already decided to move it in with the sheep herd so it would have non alpaca companions.  This morning when I went to work it was standing up and was in the corral looking around, when I came home this evening it was dead.  I suspect it was a lactic acid buildup and just too much depression.  It lost the will to live.  So I had to load it up into the tractor bucket and take it up to the boneyard. This is why we have a boneyard.  Annmarie is not happy with the alpaca.  This is why people should castrate their alpaca prior to six months old.  Everyone thinks their boys will be fabulous studs but that is just not the case in most instances.  You end up with herds of testosterone laden males just itching for a fight.  

Here are the guilty parties who killed our alpaca.  They would not leave the gate were we separated off the injured party.  They were still there in the morning watching him through the gate and fencing.  Don’t be fooled by the cute faces, they are bullies and killers.   Continue reading

Ready I think

I am focused on getting the upper fields ready for planting. I finished the discing yesterday. I now have to get an expert opinion out to look at the fields and tell me what to do next. I want to get the alfalfa fields planted this month. After they are planted then we will start working on getting financing arranged to buy our haying equipment.

I ordered the wood to fix the roof in the machine shed. I broke a couple of boards last year when I was trying to move the large bales in and out. So I should be able to fix the damage soon. I want to bolt the new beam in place so the upper wall cannot pull apart. I may even bolt the upper beams at the front and back of the opening so it is done in three places. We will need to line the walls with plywood or use 2×4 fir strips every 12 inches so the new small bales don’t push on the outside boards covering the buildings.

Mouse was being a good boy and listening. We were waiting for Annmarie to push the sheep past us. We were in place to keep them from circling around the barn lot instead of going out the gate and out onto the upper hillside. Once the sheep spotted Mouse they turned and went out the gate, without him they would have just ran right by me.

I always wear a hat when I am outside but sitting on the tractor can make for a dusty experience. I don’t like the dust masks so don’t use them much. It seems like every time I look at myself I have less hair on top of my head! I am not sure why my mother says I need a haircut every 2-3 weeks. It may be time for a beard trim though… I asked Annmarie if I would look younger if my beard was all brown. She told me to just dye it. I cannot bring myself to do it. I would rather have custom done coffee beans before spending a dime on personal appearance grooming things. I could get a free haircut every 2-3 weeks and still manage to hold off 2-3 months before getting one. I guess I am just not very stylish. I asked the puppy his opinion and he didn’t care one way or another. So I guess I will keep it this way.

Fresh beef coming

I have been busy and am having a hard time working on the blog daily. I have gone to the weekends as I can carve out the time. It allows me to think about the work that has been done and see how we are moving forward. I still like the daily blogs but after dragging myself in and cleaning up, I am tired and it is proven that I don’t write very well when I am tired. Annmarie says it is possible to read my emotions when reading the blog. Sometimes I am short and factual but other times I see it. I am still not convinced but I have come to enjoy writing about something I love. It’s not always glamorous, its not always humorous but it is honest. It’s the real trials and tribulations that happen on a farm. We have worked hard to learn about what went on and why things were done by the families that lived on this farm before us. A diary of the farm would have been a treasure trove of information. I guess in a way this is my dairy and contribution to future generations of the Gilliland Century Farm. This is our part of the story and I want those families to love it as much as we do. We work every day to make this place our own, we work every day to repair and build onto the work done over the last 114 years. It is a daunting thought to think that it really has been that long and we are continuing the tradition. Every year we try to become a little closer to self sustaining. I think we will make it in the next three years. I am going to boldly proclaim this goal!! Because, honestly, its just words for now, the real work will be documented here in this blog.

The butcher is coming to the farm soon and we needed to sort cows. We had kept the four boys off of the main herd of cows but Donna had spotted a new calf. Annmarie and I spotted it when we came home from our coast visitation/vacation/restacation. This means we need to run in the cows, and deal with the new calf. On the last calf we waited too long and the nephew and I could hardly hold him down while we tag and banded him. We now have large banding pliers with oversized bands that will fit a calf up to 250#. I personally do not want to wrestle with a 250# calf in an open pen with no rope and only two men.

We do have a real roping rope and we have a real short chunk of rope to tie the legs. We watched a YouTube video on how to tie up a goat and I have forgotten about 80% of what we learned. I find that to really cement a YouTube lesson one must watch it, then go out the same day or next and practice it for real then go back and watch it again. I did not do that. I figure that if I can learn to shear, trim feet and teeth on an alpaca from YouTube I can lean almost any animal husbandry from it. I do realize that YouTube is not an expert but if you are careful you can find good information. Trial and error is the best teacher.

We had to run the four boy cows into the corral first then sorted off the 8 month old to leave in the corral. He gets to rejoin the main herd and the other three got pushed into the upper prime field. They get to have a butcher visitation next week. We have already sold all three live animals.

We took the dogs with us and I even remembered to grab the 30 foot lead rope in case a dog got super exuberant when we worked the cows. I set the lead down on the corral while working the first set and did not remember it until we were on the back hillside headed down to get the main herd. I never manage to actually bring the lead when needed. The cows were down by the school house, farthest distance from the house possible as usual. I took Zeke down and rounded the cows up while Annmarie stayed on the hillside with Mouse. Mouse did not like this arrangement and ran down to me. We really needed the lead rope. The calf was fairly young, probably only a few days old. We are guessing this because it was still very curious. We had a hard time herding it as it kept wanting to come see us or the dogs which caused the momma cow and the bull to get agitated. Eventually we ended up getting the cows into the barn lot. Annmarie and Zeke pushed the sheep out of the barn lot then we pushed the cow herd into the corral. This was not too bad, the green ear tag cow did not want to go, she never does. We have at least three more cows that are super pregnant and should have more calves in the next two months. The summer births are way better for the calves with this breed of cow. We got the cow and calf isolated to one pen and then got the momma into the chute so we could touch the calf without her being able to touch us. I asked Annmarie to film us but she was irritated as I did not have all the tools ready and had to make a barn run. It went very smoothly, I got two testicles and I used the right color of ear tag and I even remembered to tag the calf in the right ear as we will be selling it. Keepers get a tag in the left ear. We then put pour over fly medicine on the cows. The flies should be going away as soon as the weather turns.

We discovered that last year we missed a steer. I realized this seems near impossible, but it is easier than you think. So we sorted off another cow for the butcher. We will be stocking our freezer this year with beef it seems.

We managed to do all of this in under two hours. This is very good and the dogs made it all that much easier. Zeke had snuck off while we were in the corral the first time working the cows but as we headed down to the school house he appeared down by the pumping station. Mouse was a good boy and waited for us.

I have been trying to get the two upper pastures disced and knock down the weeds. I seem to be tracking in a small bucket of dust every time I get on the tractor. I am closing in and hope to be done this weekend. I spent about 14 hours at the beginning of the week going around in circles. I change it up occasionally by going in a rectangular pattern and if I am feeling adventurous or in an odd spot I will even go in a figure 8 pattern. Its not very riveting but I have found that a book on tape is the best thing for this kind of work. Its way better than music for keeping my brain engaged. The mistress is no worse for the wear. Not a single new dent or scratch from the tip over. I really need to take a few hours this month and give her a bath, repaint the hood as the horses took another bite out of her. I may even take a hammer and see if I cannot beat the dent out of the hood. The hood latch is very hard to work and I may need to do some adjusting but that probably won’t happen as long as I can make it work. The roll bar lights on the right side are missing and need to be replaced. I suspect I will need new tires in a year or two. I am pretty happy with my little John Deere tractor. It has made my life a lot easier and I would recommend a small tractor for any small farm. It is a must.