Water runneth

The back creek started to run this week. Its pure runoff from the mountains and runs about six months out of the year. On Monday night I spotted some standing water in the creek, on Tuesday when I came home I heard it running and it kept me awake all night. I again thought that I should go out and lift the fences from over the creek. I did not do this and Wednesday when I came home the creek was a torrent! I ended up spending an hour in the dark in my wader boots trying to get the fence out of the creek and the weed dams to broken up. Every year I end up out in the dark surrounding by raging water trying to lift the fence. I tell myself that every year I should go out on the very first day I notice the standing water. I never do, I always wait until the last minute.

The upper fields are improving but the one is solid green while the other is just having the green start to poke through. I keep hoping the second field will take off. Today I had to start feeding the cows alfalfa. At the rate we are going through feed I am sure we will end up with some left over. The cats are going to be disappointed when it goes away as they keep tunneling down into it to stay warm.

I spent an hour with the new calf table cleaning it up and trying to get it to work. I managed to get all the pieces moving but I can only get the table to lean back 45 degrees. Annmarie tells me for $50 I had to expect to work on it more than one hour, but hopes springs eternal in my mind and I was hoping for instant success.

I thought I had misplaced the box blade but managed to find it after a couple of hours. This is super good as I do not have to admit to the wife that I misplaced it. See it was sitting right where it was supposed to be.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

13 singles

15 twins

3 triplets

29 ewes birthed

7 pregnant ewes pending birth

46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

3 babies dosed only

It’s the small things that count

Annmarie has been learning how to make the laser cutter do cool things. She made some cool wooden signs for the church and I found some old screws in the shop to attach them to walls and doors. They turned out very nice.

I spent the weekend catching up on little things. I clear coated the wooden signs and in the process I was looking for screws afterwards and I found our missing closet door!

The door has been missing for months. I was certain I had put it in a very safe location inside the house but we could not find it. Annmarie even admitted to seeing it once but forgot where in the house she spotted it. I had searched multiple times to no avail. It doesn’t do any good to put my slippers on the shelf when the dog can just reach in and grab them. I did manage to lose the screws for the door. I went to the hardware store and got new ones. I never did find the box of wood screws I know are somewhere on the property.

I mounted a couple of battery lights in our under the stairs closet. This is my fourth attempt at a light that will keep working in the closet. I like the motion detector ones but they are cheap and they break fairly quickly. There is power on wall in the adjoining craft room and I am going to drill a hole and install an outlet in the closet so I can install some under cabinet lighting in the closet. This will take a little planning but I believe I have all the stuff to install the outlet out in the old house.

I sanded the door stop Annmarie made on the 3D printer and sprayed it with black paint. She has blotted brown over it to age it and I will shoot it with clear coat and install it upstairs in the hallway to prevent the breeze porch door handle from hitting the wall.

Today was the tag and band day for all the sheep. Annmarie was at church so I went out and got ready to do the deed. The funny part was the 10 mommas are in their own area and one was laying down. She is as wide as she is long and I was sure she was in labor so I tried to get the other moms out so I could isolate her into our original momma/baby area. I managed to spook the small group and they went barreling by her and rolled her onto her back. She could not get off her back! It was just like a turtle on its back. She was hollering and waving her feet in the air. I got everyone out then had to go lift her onto her feet. She is now ensconced in her own pen with food and water and hopefully tonight she will have healthy triplets. If she has triplets and is paying attention to them we are going to let her raise them.

I went into the hay area and grabbed a partial bale of straw and made a chair for me on the barn floor. I laid out all the needed tools and started to catch babies one at a time. I had tagged 10 girls and one boy when I started to worry about the imbalance in babies. Mother Nature tends to keep it 50/50 when it comes to gender. I started catching more boys but it goes to the nature of our animals that the girls are calmer and easier to catch than the boys. When I thought I had everyone done I started to catch the babies and drop them over the middle panels so I could count them and make sure everyone had an ear tag. This causes the barn to become a very loud place once the babies and mommas start hollering at each other. I counted 46 babies and I found the one little lamb I had missed earlier. I was pretty sure I had missed one but could not spot it amongst all the babies. I let them rejoin and then had to push everyone back into their own area.

I had a few boys that just do not like the banding part. Some just lay down for a few minutes and call it over and others treat it like you just killed them. This little guy took the drama to a whole new level. He was playing dead.

Annmarie had talked to me about installing a board next to the feeders with two eye bolts so we could attach the gate directly to the feeders. Getting in and out when it is only bungee corded to the feeders does not make for a smooth gate transition. I had to to dig a hole in the straw to make room and then take it to the shop and drill holes and install eyebolts. I had to cut a small piece of wood off the feeder and install the new hinge point. It is much more secure and easier to get open.

Annmarie got our Weather Underground station to work today! It is now on our blog homepage. This is a great addition to our ongoing homepage updates.

Is it really winter?

It is turning out to be a very weird winter. It was in the mid 40’s yesterday and it is the middle of January. We have only had snow on the ground once all winter. Our new weather station says we are getting lots of rain. We are pretty sure something is wrong with the rain gauge as it says we have gotten 4 inches of rain since we installed it. I tried to find an official source of rain on the internet and I found a lot of weather history but could not find anything current. Internet search engines are not always my friends. It is so warm I am secretly plotting my spring projects already. Annmarie is not so secretly planning my spring projects also. We had a conversation this morning where she lined out my summer projects:

1. Plant front hillside

2. Install above ground sprinkler system on front hillside

3. Install above ground sprinkler system in orchard using 3-300 foot long 1″ poly pipe sections with valves, moving small water pump to ditch and figuring out how to wire in a 110 plug and switch into the main irrigation control panel. Without electrocuting myself in the process hopefully.

4. This will also require me to pour some concrete to reinforce the bank and stop the leak currently running through the center of the retaining wall.

5. Redo the last section of yard fence. This should prevent Gizmo from sneaking out of the yard.

6. OHH and finish assembling the back porch wooden furniture and stain it or option 2 was to “burn it” as this will be the third year its been on my list. I should make this #1 but the other stuff can be done in marginal weather and this needs to be perfect.

Plus I need to plant 7 acres of Alfalfa, find or purchase a small seeder, hay 20 acres and fix barns so they will take the round bales without pushing the siding off the outside walls. Create a system of 4 foot racks on each end of my flatbed trailer that will stop the bales from rolling off. I need to weld a few hooks on my trailer for that to work. Which means I need a welder. I still need to purchase the hay equipment and get the financing worked out. I want to fix some fence and spend one week doing fencing on the bottom. It’s going to be a busy spring and summer. Yesterday I went out to the barn and played catch up again. I try to hit it hard on my first day off so I can plan out the next two days. I went out and fed the sheep, cleaned out the feeders. They are full of dirt that was in the hay and had to be dumped out. I threw down a bale of straw as the chute was very messy. It has been very wet so the sheep are making a mess. The straw helps create a clean layer and compacts down so it is not so muddy. We had twins born on Thursday and there was another set when I went out Friday morning. Both times the babies had just been born so we lock them up with momma and then give them selenium paste and move them into the main herd in the evening. This leaves eight ewes left to give birth. At this rate we are hoping to be done by the end of January, which would make our lambing season 38 days, or two estrus cycles for the ewes. We could get a second ram and maybe shorten it to 24 days but then we have to feed two freeloaders instead of one and its harder to control the genetics. So we are going to just stay under 50 ewes and keep one ram. I had to feed the cows also, and I finally spotted the second calf. We now have two calves to tag and band but one is pretty big. This is going to be a problem. I already have to have a nephew help as even the little ones at a month are more than I can hold down and work on alone. We have been talking about a calf tipping table but new they are $1300-1500. Nothing related to livestock is cheap. So I have been putting it off as the hay equipment takes priority. I used the last of the large hay bales and will now need to break out the trailer and attach it to the tractor. I will have to load the 100# bales of alfalfa into the trailer, drive down and break them open into the feeders for the cows at least twice a week. I only had to feed once a week with the large bales. I will only have small bales when we do our own hay.

Our ram is off in the bull/ram corral and we discovered that the horse trough is too high for the sheep. We have just been scooping out a bucket or two and breaking the ice when needed. It was so warm I managed to turn on the hose and fill the entire trough. This will be enough water for the rest of winter for the four sheep that are in this enclosure. So nice not to have to bucket it from the creek. I may need to install a gate down near the creek so we can have easy access. Now you have to go all the way around to get to the creek to bucket out water.

Since I used the last of the large hay bales I was able to take the last two panels of the horse round pen and install them into the round enclosure in the barn lot. I just need to get a premade corral gate and Annmarie will finally have a dedicated circle pen for the horses after many years.

I also spread out one of the compost piles from the barn. It was nice and rounded and tall. Moisture is only getting into the top six inches. I moved all the dirt to the right side and knocked the whole pile down to 3 feet tall and very rough on top so the maximum amount of water gets absorbed and none runs off the top of the pile. I want it to turn into dirt.

After the morning chores I went inside and groomed Gizmo. He does not appreciate being plucked. I was able to get the Mohawk hair do back to its dazzling do. He no longer smells like mud and sheep.

I went to the local custom wood cutter to pick up my lumber I had picked up at auction this fall for the boosters club. While I was there it dawned on me I had not been to the metal scrap yard across the street in quite a while. I used to go every few months. So i pulled in and spent 30 minutes wandering all over the place. They have a bunch of galvanized culvert (I don’t currently need but may in the future), I found some small cable I can use, they have some T posts, a single roll of woven wire and a calf table! The table is exactly what we have been looking for and it was right there! I went in and negotiated an amazing price and arranged to pick it up next week and left. Three hours later I came back for the table. You just never know if it will still be there next week and I could not pass it up. It needs some wire brush and paint but other than that I think it is good to go! All in all it was a very productive day. Today it is already raining and miserable outside. Annmarie did morning chores and there are no new babies. So I am doing my laundry (no under wear left). I had this discussion with Annmarie this morning there are only four reasons to do laundry

1. No clean socks.

2. No clean underwear.

3. No clean work uniforms.

4. No clean dress clothes.

She knows that running out of laundry hamper space is no deterrent due to my mad stacking/piling skills and strategic leaning techniques.

Almost 75% done lambing

We keep thinking we are closing in on being done but the sheep are dragging it out. After tonight we have 11 ewes still to give birth out of 40. Every day we get one more ewe. I had three tonight that look like their sides are going to split open. They are almost as wide as they are long.

Annmarie flipped me a lot of flack over my last post. I did not feel well and she said I failed to capture any humor and kept repeating myself. After sleeping for 14 hours and rereading my post I did notice a prolific amount of repetitive statements. So in the interest of appearing to have an interesting life I am going to attempt to be an engaging author tonight. I am not saying that this is possible every time because in all reality it is not. Sometimes I think my success at the blog as far as sticking with it is because I do refuse to quit. I do just keep after it. Annmarie tells me I can not post or do it later but I know if I don’t keep after it I may stop or just limit my post to the occasional humorous story. Fifty years from now when our relatives are reading this blog and looking at the pictures and the books we have made of each year (which Annmarie has to catch up on) they will know what has happened in our lifetime, our trials and tribulations, the minutia and the cost of running a farm. We were able to save a lot of pictures and knowledge but there are still mysteries we keep discovering. I would like future generations to know what happened while we were stewards of the farm. Three years ago, Annmarie brought home some large used gunny sacks from coffee bean storage to use out in the barn. I had grand plans to make removable frames and stretch them over the frames to keep the barn warmer in the winter. Today I finally just put them over the wire panels I have over the windows. The barn already gets several degrees warmer just from shutting it up the gunny sacks will help. Installing the large window will make the biggest change and I really want to do that next year.

We had another single baby born yesterday during the day. This morning Annmarie discovered another very large single baby and tonight I found another set of twins. The twins were still wet and the ewe had not passed the placenta yet. I watched both lambs nurse before I used the lambs as bait to lure the new momma into her own private area. I did not dose the babies with selenium paste, when they are that new we try not to mess with them a lot until the momma is well bonded. She was very attentive to both lambs.

As I made my way out to the lamb shed to feed the ram I started looking around and my head lamp kept spotting eyes all over the place watching me! I chased two deer away trying to discover if they were coyotes. Three different cats from various buildings or near the creek tried to creep up on me. Its kinda spooky! If we could have two ewes give birth every day by Sunday afternoon we could tag and band and almost be done with the whole lambing season. I will redo the count but again, a disclaimer, until we do the next tag and band session and do a physical count these numbers are mere educated guesses.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

12 singles

14 twins

3 triplets

29 ewes birthed

11pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

12 babies dosed only

2 babies just born

Assimilation issues

Well we are not part of the Weather Underground yet. One of the things that Annmarie and I did not know was that Weather Underground actually has recommendations for brands and models of weather stations that work well with their website. We did not get a recommended brand so Annmarie is going to have to work harder to make it happen. I am sure she can win once she puts her mind to it. She tells me that she just redid it today about two hours ago and thinks it may work! We are KORPILOT6 and so far it is not updating put it can take up to one day to update on Weather Underground so we will hopefully be up and running tomorrow. The ram must have had some issues when he was impregnating all the ewes. We went four days without a single ewe having a baby. Since Thursday we have only had one ewe per day give birth. We are thinking he went at his job gangbusters and got all the compliant and easy ewes first, had to take a few days of rest to recuperate and then started to work harder to get all the Wiley ewes. This part of the process seemed to take longer if our extended birthing time is any indication of his progress.

On Thursday I found the first single baby and isolated them in the momma baby area for the day. Unfortunately, I had installed our brand new aluminum gate between the momma/baby and pregnant ewe area. Doing work in the barn should not be an unfortunate thing but it seems like whenever I change something the sheep figure out how to prove that the job is incomplete. The little buggers can squeeze through the new gates! I had three lambs in the wrong area and unlike the feeders that they usually just crawl back out, they did not want to leave all those adult sheep even though none of them were their mommas. Two of the babies had ear tags already and the third was tagless but a big baby and not new. The first two just ran over and found momma and ate, the tagless one was crying nonstop and could not find momma. I had to block the new gate with an old wooden gate to keep the lambs from repeating that trick.

Momma had abandoned him so he came inside and went into the laundry basket. He jumped out first thing and ended up doing the four way splits on our tile floor. I was heating up his bottle when this occurred. After saving him he took a little milk and fell instantly asleep. I fed him three more times but every time he got a little in his tummy he would just fall back asleep. Tisha came and saved him, he will go live with the other three bummers, all of them are still alive.

On Friday we had another single lamb and the rest of our brand new movable gates arrived. Now I just need to find time to fix them, Annmarie suggested we just cover the bottoms with chicken wire so as not to add weight to the gates.

Saturday morning we had a set of twins. Every lamb has been getting the paste and now that it is freezing outside we don’t have to use the syringes. We just squeeze out the frozen length we need and roll it into a ball and then feed it to the lamb.

The lambs are all over the place, I am sure we have lost track of how many we have despite writing it down every day. We should only have 9 untagged babies now but when I look at them running around it looks like more that’s that. Next week I will do the whole tag and band adventure and then we will count everyone again. We have 14 ewes left to give birth. One ewe is not pregnant so we will watch her, I am not sure if she is barren or just lost her baby but she has no udder and is not pregnant. She does have a girl tag, I might want to check her gender just in case there was an error. The lambs are very comical at this age and there are a lot of them. I was out in the barn today applying chicken wire to all the new gates and they were running all over the place. I had kicked out the ewes and pasted and moved the single lamb with our old lead ewe into the momma/baby area. This let me keep the barn closed up so I could fix and install new gates and not worry about mixing up everyone. This is a nightmare if you have to resort with this many babies. The chute doesn’t work well as everyone gets separated. You have to mix the sheep up in a pen then find babies and get them to bleat so you can find their momma then separate them off, it takes forever.

The lambs kept trying to go outside, so they would run down the chute and then run back to the main area. I snagged this picture when they were running back into the main area. This is not all of them.

I just zip tied some chicken wire to our brand new fancy gates. The gates are very light and we did not want to put wire panel pieces on them and weight them down. The chicken wire adds almost no weight and does its job well.

I installed a gate in the far end and attached two new anchor bolts into the main beam so there are no more bungee cords needed. I also installed a gate over the end of the chute so we can close the gate and the babies cannot sneak through. I also installed another gate between the momma/baby area and the pregnant ewes. I had to use bungee cords on that one. I need to install another board and some eye bolts.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

10 singles

13 twins

3 triplets

25 ewes birthed

15 pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

 10 babies dosed only

These numbers are a mere approximation. Until I do the tagging and banding and physically touch every baby and count every ewe these are best guess. It never fails that every year I try and keep a strict count I always manage to get off somehow. They do add up but that doesn’t mean they are right.

Lambing update

Annmarie has been holding down the fort while I was off training all weekend. The sheep did not listen to instructions. I told them on Friday that they needed to have all their babies over the weekend so when Annmarie goes back to work they would be done birthing. They did not listen. We only had four ewes give birth over the weekend. It was enough to throw us past the 50% mark. So Annmarie chased all the pregnant ewes out of the barn and moved all the nursing ewes and babies over into the larger penned off area in the barn. Now the pregnant ewes have the smaller area. We had two more singles born, another triplet and a twin. She had to bring in the smallest triplet and feed it in the house. All the new lambs got dosed with Selenium paste and seem to be doing well. She tossed them in with the baby herd they are just missing tags and bands. We will wait till next weekend to tag and band again. Before anyone can go into the baby area they will need to be dosed with Selenium. This way we can track who has had medicine.

The babies have discovered that they can crawl into the wall feeders and it makes them 10″ taller than everyone else! This is a great dominance game so they are now jumping in and out of the feeders to establish a pecking order.

Tisha came and got the third bummer, he was a little boy and after selenium, food and some warmth he was able to walk around the house some. He will be in good hands.

You cannot count 19 ewes in this picture but it is almost all of the pregnant mothers. We have 2-3 favorite ewes in here. We would really like to keep the babies from our old lead ewe “#1”, our old solid brown ewe and the one in the bottom left corner of this picture. They are all hand tame and their babies are always super calm and grow up to be very calm ewes. Two of those ewes are old and skinny and may not survive another year. They are so skinny! We are feeding so much that the younger ewes are still very fat even after giving birth. So next year we may have to set up a special feed area just for them so we can give supplemental feed.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

3 bummers

7 singles

12 twins

3 triplets

21 ewes birthed

19 pregnant ewes pending birth

30 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

6 lambs selenium dosed

All they need is a number

I came home early today from work so we could catch up on the lambs. We had to bummer out a second one on Wednesday and it was not able to stand. After talking with several people we think it may be a Selenium deficiency. The trouble is there is not a really good salt lick for sheep that delivers selenium. The one for cows has a toxic dose of copper for sheep. They do make a paste you can feed them so we got some. I also picked up some more buckets and straps and plastic salt holders with predrilled holes in the bottom so the water doesn’t make a mess. After stopping at the feed store I headed home. We had decided to get this all done during daylight hours and we always underestimate how long it will take.

I told Annmarie we might as well tag and band at the same time. That way we will know who got medicine. So we chased all the babies and mommas into the barn and Annmarie got the three moms and four babies in main population with two extra ewes into the barn and we locked everyone else out. That left one mom and one lamb outside with the ewes. She had also managed to separate out two ewes and four babies this morning into the far pen in the barn. I usually just sit down on the barn floor and let Annmarie bring the lambs to me. I had to go into an unused corner of the barn to get a couple of piles of clean straw to toss down where I wanted to sit. I laid out the medicine and the tags and bander on each side of me and she proceeded to start catching babies. We did the combo area first and there are times you would think we killed the little boys. Some do not like the rubber bands on their testicles. They keep backing up after it happens in the hopes of getting away from the pain. After anywhere from 5-30 minutes they start behaving normally. The other reaction is to just sprawl out on the straw and appear to have died. It also goes away in 15-30 minutes. If you are going to be melodramatic you might as well draw it out.

We then snagged the four lambs in the middle part after kicking the two adult pregnant ewes out. We opened up the entire barn after snagging the two sets of twins on the end and pushed all done herd into the baby area.

Now we have 24 ewes left in “General Population” or “Gen Pop” for short per Annmarie. I get a kick out of it every time she says it. Only 23 have not delivered a lamb yet. We have had 17 ewes give birth for a total of 30 lambs in our barn. This gives us a reproductive rate of 176%!! This is very good. If you counted the two bummers and the one I found dead as live births we would have 194% birth rate, Annmarie tells me I cannot manipulate the numbers this way and only get to count the live lambs we have in the barn.

So the current numbers are as follows:

1 death

2 bummers

5 singles

2 triplets

11 twins

17 ewes birthed

23 ewes still pregnant

30 lambs tagged and banded