Rock fencing

I would have started fencing on Friday morning but Tex was sick. I had plans of going to work until 1200 during which Tex would have been making progress but alas it did not happen. I still only went to work until 1200 then went shopping for more railroad ties. I looked at a new Ruger Mark IV 22 semiauto pistol. I need something a little more accurate than my Walther P-22. It’s on the want list now.

This morning Tex came out and I fed him breakfast to get started. Homemade hash browns, bacon and two farm fresh eggs over easy all cooked in bacon grease! It was good. One would have thought we would run outside to get on that fencing but the honey do list came first. We moved all the furniture back into the spare room and even left one piece out, an old wash basin stand. There was no real room for it. We filled the closet back up and now that I have shelves between the duct work in the closet I am using those 12″ wide shelves to store empty canning jars. They tend to accumulate and I run out of spots to put them before I make an attic run. Annmarie discovered my second stash of egg cartons I store in the closet also. I keep my third stash in the attic. We are good for about 2-3 years.

We then moved the display case out of the upstairs eventual bathroom and I replaced the broken leg on it. Annmarie cleaned it up. It had been there for 12 years. We just have to decide what to put in it. I have a large collection of medical supplies I have accumulated over the years.

We also picked out two maps from the late 1800’s to take in and get a price quote on framing. We have about 30 maps of our local area and initial townships that are hand drawn on linen backed paper. The question is which ones do we frame first?

I sent Tex out first to start cleaning up the front ditch fence crossings and tossing all the burnables onto the burn pile. I told him to just use the bucket of the tractor as a wheelbarrow. I stayed inside and did the dishes and a few more honey do items. When I went outside I started the fire and Tex kept bringing load after load of wet soaked rotting wood but he kept going to the same place in the barn lot. I grabbed my coffee and told him we needed to take a look. He said good cause he needs a chainsaw. He was cleaning up the entire spring head!! Those trees have been down for 11 years since I burnt out the 30 foot high tumble weed patch that was a tree grove. The only tree that responded to fire was the black walnut, it started to actually put on walnuts after that. So we had a discussion that I do want that cleaned out and he can borrow a chainsaw but we need to get the fence done in the barn lot first. That is a great task for when I am at work!

So I had him start tearing out the creek crossing that the bull and sheep kept going through. He is to remove everything from both railroad ties on the edges of the below picture. Anything burnable goes on the fire. It was a mess of wire, panels, rope and broken boards, along with flooding debris. While he was doing that I started to pick rocks. We needed rocks for the two rock cribs and alongside the creek to keep the dirt on the hillside.

I spent from 1000 to 1330 hauling rocks when I realized I was hungry again. We had a gourmet lunch, Nalley chili with Hill’s all beef hotdogs. The hotdogs got browned then the fry pan deglazed with fresh onions and garlic and all of it thrown into the chili, top it off in the bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese! That is a lunch that will stick to your ribs and keep you going for hours.

I went back out and picked more rocks. Tex started filling the rock cribs with the small rocks and the large rocks were saved to be used down by the ditch.

We got all the rock cribs filled, I put about 12 rocks in only, Tex did the rest. We then started to wrestle with the large rocks and tried to get them on a shelf down by the water. This was not easy and especially not easy after they roll down a muddy hillside and go into the front spring. Muddy wet rocks are not easy to move around. Tex managed to get most of his rocks into the creek.

I again fell into the water. I slipped on the muddy hillside and landed flat on my backside into the water filling my waterproof boots. We got all the rocks I had brought down near the water’s edge when Sarah came and told me it was 1815 and time for dinner. I had left my watch and cell phone in the house at lunch so I had no clue what time of day it was. It was quitting time anyways, Tex had rolled his second from last rock into the water and the two of us could not lift it up into place and could barely roll it into place. The rock was only about 150#. Earlier we had been moving several hundred pound rocks into place. Tomorrow I will get more large rocks and we will start putting up wire fencing. I would like to get flower seed on the ground.

I wish it was yesterday

It rained all night Saturday night. We could hear the back creek roaring while we were in bed. There was a small discussion on whether Tex would show up after it rained all night, but he had my number and had not called so we figured he was going to come regardless. He did show up but I had already decided that we were not going to work out in the mud. I considered working on the inside of the barn and putting up the wooden runners on the barn walls for our new round hay bales but I need the 2×6 boards to finish the outside fencing. In the end I figured he could wash the walls one last time in the spare room and we would hang the new closet kit in the spare room and put all the furniture back in the room. I set him up with water and rags and went outside to feed the animals. I can use my coveralls and stay clean while feeding.

I did notice that the back creek was very high. After feeding the sheep I was driving the tractor toward the cows when I noticed the orchard flooding.

I called Annmarie and asked her to send Tex outside. I wanted him to bring the pickup down into the orchard. I thought the issue was the culvert that is too high. My plan was to rip out the culvert and let the water run down the ditch. The problem with this plan was once I drove off the side of the ditch I was going to get the tractor stuck. So I dove off the edge, and Tex would hook onto the tractor box blade with the pickup and pull me out. Tex did not pay attention to how much mud he was getting on himself in his zeal to be helpful. I secretly think he thought if he was dirty enough I would not let him back in the house to wash walls.

Once we got the culvert out the water level started to drop. I then noticed a few high spots in the ditch. So we started digging them out. I would dive off the edge, get a scoop of mud and he would pull me out with the pickup. We had done this about 12 times when I noticed that the water level kept rising!

It finally dawned on me that the reason the water level was rising was that more water was in the front channel. I told Tex to gas up the tractor and I would go grab some hand tools. I snagged a metal dirt rake, two shovels, and two double bladed axes. As I came out of the woodshed I could see the front spring getting higher. I told Tex to leave the tractor as we would probably just get it stuck in the mud. We needed to hoof it quickly up the creek and find the blockage. As we started up the creek there was water in the lower field, way more than there was supposed to be. It just got worse the farther up we got.

The upper two planted grass fields looked like lakes not fields! It took me two weeks to plant those fields and I was afraid Mother Nature was going to ruin them in a matter of hours. I figured the problem was up in the seven acre field. There are Sumac bushes growing alongside the creek the entire length of the field. I have been ignoring them since we moved back 12 years ago. Two years before that my Father-in-law had to hire someone to come dig the blockages out of the creek during a storm and that person got their backhoe stuck then got their CAT stuck and spent 3 days fighting mud to get their vehicles unstuck.

The water was pouring over the dike wall into the field causing many problems. The main problem was we could not just go to the problem area. This section of creek has a concrete weir poured into the banks and its the narrowest spot. I was sure the water was damned up behind it. I was right. We climbed it onto the flotsam and started to pull branches and thistles out of it and toss them onto the bank. The water is definitely runoff from the snowmelt as it was very cold. We cleared the first jam and moved up the creek.

It looked pretty good when we finished.

The trouble we found as we moved up the creek was that there were more live trees in the actual creek bed and the fence had gotten involved in the act. I forgot to grab a se told fence pliers. It never even occurred to me that the fence would be an issue for us. This is the actual creek below, it started to get this massive pile of small debris that was forming this incredibly dense fibrous mat. At one point I cut the fence with an axe. Tex lost one of the axes into the creek. If someone finds an axe between here and Pendleton its mine!

Tex just hung in there and we kept at it until we had most of the water contained back in the stream bed. We went 6 hours with no food, no water and working nonstop. Tex just kept working without any complaints. He managed to not fall into the creek and I accidentally stepped off the edge, it was hidden under running water and dropped four feet into the ice cold water, luckily Tex was right there and was able to pull me out. I am not sure I could have crawled back out on my own.

We found a dead deer with its leg stuck in the fence and a cow elk dead alongside the road. You really don’t want to dig around in the deep weeds, you never know what will turn up. The entire fence alongside that stream for 1/4 mile will need to be moved and redone.

On the way back to the house the fields were already starting to look better. I need to dig some deeper ditches. We had to dig out the ditch in the upper prime field.

I was utterly exhausted and soaking wet. It’s hard to be cold when you are doing that much manual labor. Just as we got into the barn lot you could see that one fence was pushed over. I tried to clear branches from the culvert at the creek crossing and ended up falling on my back in the silt mud. I got the branches but I was ready to get home. Tex’s extra railroad tie next to the bridge had floated away. He will have to pt it back. Most of the creek crossings are filled with debris and will need to be cleaned out but at this time food and sleep are the most important things on my mind. I stripped on the back porch and got money to pay Tex. I told him there was a hazard pay bonus and sent him on his way. I washed my hands, ate a sandwich, took a shower, took medications and I was in bed by 1600. Annmarie woke me up at 1815, made me eat more dinner, drink more water and then I went back to bed with a large glass of water to drink through the night. I have not been that tired in a long time.

Fencing progress

Tex came out on Saturday for day three and we worked on the barn lot fence. Tex just kept setting posts and more posts. It was a sight to behold. We got all the barn lot posts set for the first flower area and the sheep side barn lot.

The first flower area will be watered and the sheep will not be able to enter! Our goal is to set a flower area that can be used by honey bees. We are going to set another area to the left of this one but it will not be watered.

Annmarie questioned my use of posts. She told our child that since she was not involved in the planning she was not going to take any credit. I think it is going to look great and we will have a nice gate to go in and out of the barn lot through.

This is going to be our dry flower area. I have the flat area across the spring and that is where we are going to put the bee boxes. We are looking at flow hives. I need to make sure and provide water access from the ram orchard now that we have fenced off the back runoff creek.

The final product is going to be very cool. We made great progress and I am looking forward to finishing on Sunday. We just need to haul rocks for the two rock cribs and then string wire. I think we have a real shot at finishing.

We got lucky

The aftermath of the flooding on Sunday was not too bad actually. I will need to set the culvert in the orchard I removed back but I want to wait till it gets a little drier.

The upper barn lot is going to need some definite work. I need to fix the fence for sure and I will have to follow Annmarie’s suggestion and put a railroad tie on either side of the dip and pull the fence straight across the gap. I have 20 feet of culvert, in two sections, that I can place across this spot. I will need to dig it down as the culvert is 24 inches I think. I am going to get the barn lot fence fixed first before I move on to any more projects. I want to get the flower seeds into the ground. Annmarie walked up the pasture and took this picture of the Upper Prime Field. It actually doesn’t look bad. Hard to believe almost the entire thing was under water for a few hours.

The last casualty on the list was the culvert on the front ditch down by the apple tree. It got plugged and flowed over the banks for 36 hours. I was just too exhausted by the end of Sunday. I removed the blockage on Monday evening and it is doing fine now. I may have to move a little dirt around to make up for the washed out banks.

I was productive during the week. I managed to get the last of the closet shelves hung in the spare bedroom. Now we just need to move all the furniture into the spare room so you can actually walk down the hallway without brushing furniture or a wall.

Woe Tex!

Tex came out of the chute ready to work first thing this morning. We fed the sheep, which is easier now that they are all one herd again. Tex helped catch yesterday and I tagged and banded the last four babies we had departed from the herd and we merged those mommas with the main herd.

We got four strands of smooth wire on one side of the gate and three strands up on the other side. The discrepancy is because one section of the fence uses a taller woven wire than the other.

I went over and marked out the rock crib locations and Tex started building them while I made the chicken portal through the fence. Once the discrimination gate was in place I used the trusty mistress to tear up the hillside and smooth it all out. I also had to go across the spring and work the other side of the spring. This necessitates driving a four foot wide tractor over a four foot wide bridge. I made and installed the bridge a long time ago. I am sure its logged in the blog so within the last eight years. I have been using the bridge whenever I need a short cut. Annmarie refuses to drive the tractor across as a tire is usually partially hanging off the bridge during crossing. I drove over the bridge several times today without any issues.

We had to make a run to the fencing supply pile to load the pickup up with railroad ties and the last of my round wooden poles. I only have 6 ties left unused and I may need those in the new section of fencing I have been ignoring.

We are going to have to install wire in the rock cribs to prevent the rocks from falling out when we fill them. I am hoping we can do that on Saturday. Tex went to get gravel to set two posts while I dug the post holes and set the posts down in for final seating. After Tex finished the second post he asked if I wanted the extra gravel in the skinning pit. I know it will take me hours to move all the gravel for the pit so any little help is appreciated.

I had given strict instructions on the first day that any time he was moving around in the tractor that he had to wear his seatbelt. This is to prevent you from getting thrown clear of the vehicle if something were to happen.

I warned him that the bridge was narrow. He then proceeded to attempt a crossing. Woe Tex!!! I saw it happen in slow motion! Luckily, Tex had his seatbelt on so he didn’t get thrown clear of the tractor. I made him stay in place so I could get a picture as I am usually the one in the compromising position.

We still had a pickup bed full of railroad ties so I had Tex grab a chain and drive the pickup around the barn and into the back lot. He had a hard time making the corner with the pickup in four wheel drive. The four wheel drive was mandatory as the entire back area is one giant mud pit. He kept sliding towards the fence as that was the lowest spot on the hillside.

He managed to snag a taillight on the driver’s side with encouragement from me. It looks like we just need a new light fixture.

We hooked onto the hitch and pulled that rear tire down onto the ground. Once we had the rear tire on the ground I was able to drive it out with some pickup assistance. The hardest part was getting the pickup back there and getting seat-belted into the tractor before trying any thing.

As penance, Tex put in a railroad tie next to the bridge. It sits on two very large rocks and widens the bridge by 10″. This will be nice in case I ever miss. He is also going to find me a new light cover to order off of the internet.

He came through for me and for $23 I have a new light cover already on its way!

He was looking a little hangdog by the time he was done for the day. Tomorrow we fill the rock cribs and drill some holes!

It’s my old joy

It was not a giant spider, I told myself after I screamed like a little girl. I was out in the barn doing chores late Wednesday evening in the dark. I waited too long to do chores in the daylight. I went to move one of the inside swing doors and a black and white cat was sitting on top of the door, unbeknownst to me and when I swung the door closed this “thing” dropped down onto my arms. I had a mini meltdown until I realized it was the cat and not a man eating spider. I am sure I lost a a little more hair off of my head due to this life threatening event.

I tried to take a picture of the full moon with my new IPhone. Low light pictures are still not very good with a phone camera.

I lined up some help for Thursday thru Sunday to build some more fence. I wanted to finish the fence I started this Winter and redo the barn lot arrangements. We really want to get a Flow Hive and have at least one bee hive. We feel that we need to supply some sustenance to the bees first. So we are going to build two flower areas in the barn lot. These will be isolated from all the animals and one of the two will be able to be watered. This may even let us grow a couple of trees that the animals cannot eat before they get any height to them.

I got the skinning pole area dug out and ready for gravel. It will be nice to not have to work in the mud when skinning animals. We killed three last summer but the most I have done is ten at once.

I have a new helper, he will here forth forever be known as Tex. I thought about continuing the trend and calling him Mr. Tex but I just could not do it and have shortened it to just Tex. Tex set posts while I ran around on Thursday finding supplies, tools and getting fuel. I even made a trip to the scrap metal junkyard.

Once the posts were set and H braces made with cross wire we got the woven wire up and the gates installed. Tex had built fence before so we just had a couple of small learning curve issues. As in all things there are many different ways to skin a cat. We tied in the creekside fence to the back of the chicken coop so I decided to shrink the coop pen and rip out all the extra. The pen is useful to get the chickens to lay in the coop if they start to stray all the time, but it does not need to be that big. So we moved a post and connected it to the front part only. That meant we had to add a gate against the old house to close off the ram pasture. Now we can let the lambs out here without worrying their moms would try and jump the fast moving creek and leave the babies to make that same attempt. That option would not be healthy for lambs or old ewes.

Tomorrow we will get the smooth wire up and I will have to build a pass through in the fence for the chickens that will hopefully not let the lambs through.

Tex did a great job and I am looking forward to Friday’s progress report.

Winter is leaving

Mother Winter is finally giving up her grip on the weather and spring is trying to come out. For the fifth day in a row we have had above freezing temperatures during the day. This is allowing the snow to melt off at a slow rate. A slow rate is the rate we want. I have been out in the machine shed counting bales of hay to see if we are going to make it. We are going to make it for the cows just barely! We have been feeding the cows twice a day with all this snow on the ground. This morning when I went out and fed there was still hay from last night on the ground. The cows had not cleaned it up. We will go back to feeding the cows in the late evening. This forces them to forage during the day and ensures they have full bellies during the night when it gets cold. It is still freezing every night and dipping down into the low 20’s. I had to go over to Feedeville and buy another ton of pellets for the sheep. This time I picked up alfalfa pellets and more Kountry Buffet, an all purpose general feed. I would have gotten more Kountry Buffet but they ran out. There has been quite the rush on feed with this sudden extended snow storm deposits. It is incredibly expensive to feed this way but we are now getting enough calories into the mothers that they are starting to put weight back on. They don’t usually do that until the grass comes up and they get an all you can eat buffet.

I was sick all day yesterday and slept most of it. I blame my fellow coworkers for spreading the plague. I did manage to move 2400 pounds of food bags from the back of the pickup into the barn and chicken coop. I picked up 300# of chicken food for $12.75/50# bag, this is a good price but unless I buy a ton at a time (40 bags) and save another $1/bag its not really worth the drive. I like having the ton on hand but I hate the mice problems and despite $30 worth of poison traps for the mice they go right for the chicken food and avoid the traps. If I could find flat sheets of sheet metal to mount to the inside walls and floors of the chicken supply room I would feel better but that won’t be an easy task.

I will keep my open when I go to the scrap metal yard next time. I am due to go back and pick up some metal soon. If this 45-50 degree weather keeps up it will be time to start fixing fence soon. One of the barn cats has figured out she stays warm if she sleeps under the round feeders. After the sheep feed they settle down around the feeder and give off heat. The hay is dry and comfortable under the feeder and no one can step on her. It is a recent development and one that she keeps repeating. Our large orange barn cat is starting to mellow out. He stayed in the barn, sitting on a ledge, today the entire time I was working. He used to run immediately to the hole under the barn as soon as he saw us. I guess he likes being fed, I have not seen a single mouse in the barn this winter. Having the cats has made a huge difference. We found another dead cat on the place and have been seeing a raccoon again. I had a single chicken die this week but we think it was due to old age. Very soon we will be getting baby pullets. I just need to place the order.

We are currently trying to fill out paperwork to get a loan for the haying equipment. This is proving to take several hours of our time. Will see how it goes.

We need to start tracking our tractor usage by run hours. At start of March we had 730 hours.