Fencing fury

Sunday we decided to start with fencing and hope we could get some parts completed. We went to the fencing supply pile and snagged the last of the railroad ties. My supply pile is getting pretty sparse. I only have one roll of woven wire left, no wooden fence posts and two rolls of smooth wire. We managed to get the last five stood up and my little tractor managed to get them over to the barn lot, but it was not pretty. The chain stretched with the weight of the railroad ties and they went all cattywonkous.

We used the two heaviest ties for the gate crossing the culvert bridge. The tractor was only able to dig those holes about 18″ and I dug the other three feet by hand. It makes for a very sturdy post when it is set in gravel. We are setting all wooden posts in gravel now. They just hold up better and stay stiffer. The gate opening was 16 feet which is a long gate. These gates usually sag so I went into the barn and found one of those wheel attachments and we attached it. I snagged three of them at a yard sale a couple of years ago. This is the first time I have gotten to use one. The real problem came when we tried to attach the gate to the post. We hooked in the bottom part and then swung the gate to see how it moved. Nope, I needed to take some dirt down to make it level.

I spent the next 1.5 hours cutting into the hillside in an attempt to get a level path for the gate. We hand dug it a couple of times and kept marking the path with the gate wheel. I finally had to go dump off the tractor auger and install the box blade. I should have done it an hour earlier.

I spread the dirt out all over the area in an attempt to cover the rock face that keeps trying to jut out of the ground and we made sure the animals can get to water. We also chained the panels together to make sure they stay in place.

As an added bonus we got two solid wood posts installed in the barn lot cross fences and will. Be tightening both of those fences next week. Once we get the culvert and last outer water damaged barn lot fence done next week the entire barn lot will have been redone and should be good for another 7-10 years with just a little repair.

I even got the momma/baby area leveled out. I want to toss out some grass seed this week after work and see if it will grow. Annmarie had me take the dogs out with me as the sheep were mowing our yard. I came inside that evening with a hoarse voice as I had to keep hollering for the dogs to come back or to quit harassing some animal. I even made them stay in place for over an hour a couple of times. It’s good practice for them and they don’t like to do it so it did work out well as a training exercise. My voice is not cut out to holler and swear all day. I am good with that for short periods of time only. We have decided the only dog working videos I can post are sped up and make me sound like a chipmunk. No one can understand what I am saying!

Our current numbers are as follows:

2 death

6 bummers

14 singles (37%)

19 twins (50%)

5 triplets (13%)

38 ewes birthed

57 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

1 lambs to process

Production rate:

Birthed 176%

On our farm and alive 155%.

We love rain, it doesn’t love us

It’s Friday andI wanted to do some more fencing but from the beginning of the day it was not going to happen. The front creek was already on the rise and the only reason for it is because the back creek has been diverted and is flooding the upper fields.
As soon as Tex and I ate breakfast we went up to the upper field ready to clean out blockages in the upper creek. We found three places the water was running over the creek banks. Two of those places we could not fix, the water was just too high.
The third one was a hole in the dike only about 3 feet wide and a foot deep. We filled it with sticks and stuffed grass in amongst them and got the leak stopped. I didn’t get wet and 1/3 less water was leaking out. We headed down to the house to get some fencing done.
Unfortunately, it started to rain heavily! So plan B was to do something that did not entail being out in the rain. I try and avoid the rain whenever possible. I might melt.
Potential bathroom
Front Spring
Stewart creek upper 7 acre field

I decided it was time to work on the bathroom upstairs. We emptied the whole thing out and I went to town and purchased all the lumber I thought we would need to rough out the walls and frame in the duct work. We unloaded all the wood onto the front porch and set up the compound Miter saw on the front porch. Tex can use a tape measure and a saw so I fed him measurements and he cut the 2x4s and brought them up to the bathroom so we could frame up sections and install them. The longest boards were 13′ but we could not get that length board past the top of the stairs. They would not turn the corner. So we made two 6.5′ sections and attached them in the bathroom.
We were running out of time and I needed to get foreman input from Annmarie. She needed to help me decide how we were going to cover the chimney, exhaust vent and plumbing vents. I could have made three vertical stair step sections or one diagonal wall. She went for the diagonal wall.
Bathroom ducts framed in

Fence till it rains

Every year I think I am going to get the lawn mowed before it gets out of control. Every year in the spring I get distracted fencing and then it rains repeatedly and the grass gets out of control.  I keep thinking the mower will magically be able to slice through 12 inches of wet heavy grass and it won’t.  So every year I come to the same conclusion, use Mother Nature and I turn the sheep loose in the front yard.  The only real drawback to this is going to the cars is like walking through a poop minefield.  It takes two weekends to get the entire yard eaten down.  During the week we cannot let the sheep in the yard unsupervised as the dogs would have a hay day.  
Mowing the lawn!
Tex and I moved all the leftover metal panels down by the spring. I want to install a gate on top of the culvert and still allow animals access to water. So we gave them 16 feet of water frontage so they can go down to water. Every time we fence this we try and let them get to water as the spring never dries out and never freezes. We used the tractor to move the panels around. Hopefully, we can get the posts set for the gate today. The weather just needs to hold out.

Panels moved for new fenced area

 We managed to get the entire momma/baby area fence torn out and reinstalled. I brought the tractor in and we leveled the entire area, reset two posts, fixed a couple of H-braces and restrung the fence. It looks great and now the dry flower area is completely protected.

Momma baby area fence reworked
There is a black walnut tree in the corner of the flower bed. I am hoping it is still alive. It has survived for the last five years even though it gets eaten down to the ground every year. If its still alive then this is its year as nothing can get to it to nibble it down to the ground.
Dry flower area fenced in
I wanted to keep fencing and get that gate in but Mother Nature did not get the memo. By lunch time it was pouring down rain and we had to go inside. Tex and I had Tamales for lunch, they were good but I made salsa Fresca with Serrano Chile’s and it was smoking hot, almost too much. I should have stuck with Jalepenos but the Serranos were on sale!

Upstairs bathroom insulating ducts

We switched to installing insulation and attempting to finish up the framing in the bathroom. We have about five more boards to install so we can sandwich insulation around the horizontal duct. Once that last little bit of framing is done we will start getting the plywood up and cover all the insulation. My hope is that with this insulation we will get hotter air downstairs. This next winter will be the test. Annmarie and I are still trying to come to an agreement on what type of ceramic tile to put on the floor. She wants the same thing that we used downstairs. I want a tile no bigger than 8×8 inches. That size will be easier to install if the floor is not level, which I am sure it is not.

Tex is the man!

Sunday was another day of fencing that would have been, I was saved from this fate by Tex!  I had to go to work on Sunday and Tex just kept building fence while I was gone.  It is amazing, sometimes I feel like a magician.  Now if I never ran out of money that would be a real trick.

We let the sheep out on the back hillside as they had eaten down the upper pasture pretty good.  The hillside looks great and there is plenty of food for the sheep.  The horses won’t go on the hillside as they would have to cross the back creek.  Mika is getting let out at night to forage a little extra once the sheep are put away in the barn at night.

Meathead has decided to work for me for 10 hours a week.  We are helping her out while she goes to school and she is earning her assistance.  I have a lot of rock picking projects lined up for her.  Unfortunately, this is supposed to be a very wet month with higher than normal precipitation.  I will think of other things for her to do if its too wet.  

img_0313I did come back and Tex and I finished up the ram pasture fence. It is now 100% done and would contain the sheep if we were to put them in there. We still have to finish the fence on the momma side. It needs to be torn down, the soil leveled off and then rebuilt. I have been piling dirt up against the fence to prevent the animals from crawling under it.

I do think we will need to put a couple of 2×6 boards across the spring crossing. If we don’t do that the bull will be able to just hook the fence and lift the panels. The two boards will stop him from hooking it with his horns. img_0314

Our back creek is rising as the sun goes down. Our front spring is not rising yet so the creek is staying in its boundaries. If it jumps our spring level raises dramatically. If it jumps it’s bank then I will have to go dig out the blockage again. img_0317-1

Dug out again

When I went to work Wednesday morning I knew the back creek was overflowing. Our front ditch was muddy and four times its normal size. Unfortunately, I had to go to work and could not just stop what I was doing and go up and unblock the jam. So after work I went to the hardware store and picked up a portable handsaw and a pitchfork that has the tines bent 90 degrees. I figured that would work better than a metal rake at getting stuff out of the creek.

I texted Tex to see if he was available but he had homework. Again, you gotta like a guy with priorities. I made a second change, I put on my chest waders! I even remembered to but a belt on the outside of the waders above my waist to prevent water from getting in rapidly and weighing me down. It’s a safety feature that I figured was important since I was working alone. I also got a pair of rubber impregnated gloves that would dry out fast after I was done. I loaded it all up in the pickup and drove to the upper end. No sense in trudging through the mud the entire distance.

The chest waders were a game changer! I finally just waded into the water and started to pull the piles apart with my gloved hands. I was in water up to my stomach. I made sure to stand on the upriver side of the mass so if it broke loose it would not take me downstream. I spent an hour and managed to tear the large blockage in half. Unfortunately, a tree in the stream bed is the reason for the blockage and there is no fix for that in belly high water. I did manage to lower the water level by about 6 inches in that spot which stopped the water from spilling over the sides. So I was successful and did not have to spend all day. It was a pleasant surprise.

The fields are getting water logged but seem to be recovering except for the growing mud spot. I really need to dig out the irrigation ditch as I believe it could catch the overflow, and run it along side the field then dump back into the stream lower down. Unfortunately, there is no way to get any type of powered equipment into the fields currently. On Wednesday I waited for delivery of the new Power Harrow and seeder. It came on a semi-truck. I was supposed to be available for delivery from 1100-1500. I was home by 1115. The delivery driver called me and then dropped off the pallet at 1445. It was prior to the 1500 deadline. I watched a movie and some bad anime waiting for him to show up. I had to run back to work and got back late. I fully expected to be able to back up the tractor to the pallet, using the quick hitch just hook on and go. I don’t know what I was thinking or why I thought easy was going to work. The attachments do not line up with my quick hitch. I had to remove the quick hitch, extend the tension on the rods and hook it all up. Then I could not lift it off the pallets as my adjustable bar needed to be tightened. This takes a stiff rod poked through a hole. I have misplaced my large screwdriver and every piece of metal I stuffed through the hole bent. I fought and swore and had the harrow in the machine shop 1.5 hours later. I moved the thing 30 feet. I read the very thin manual that came with it and learned nothing from it. I had the electronic copies sent to my email and still need to read them. I need to get this thing up and running in the next 2 weeks. If only the weather will cooperate.

New Power Harrow

No schematics necessary

Tex and I started in on the fencing today with the intention of making great progress. I grabbed a roll of smooth wire and a bucket of gravel with the tractor and headed back to the job site. I started down the path to the bridge on the tractor but I only had the auger on the back of the tractor for counter weight. Next thing I know I am on two wheels of the opposing sides. I dumped the bucket quickly, dropped the wire into the water and managed to get the tractor to fall back onto all four tires. I dumped the gravel off where Tex was working and proceeded to go back and tear into the hillside. My previous path was not level and led me to almost tip sideways. I made sure to keep at it until I had a nice path that was safe to go up and down in the tractor on.

Meathead is going to start helping me so I also created a flat spot up on the hill and we are going to fill it with 200+# rocks. Again I am hoping to keep some dirt on the hillside so we can get some vegetation to grow. I also started digging a trench under the eaves of the roof. Unfortunately, I cannot dig very deep as there is a rock ledge just under the soil. I still managed to get 6-10 inches dug out and now need to fill it with gravel.

Tex managed to get all the posts set in gravel before lunch time. Now we need to make the H braces and start putting up wire. A rain storm started to go through so we called it lunch time. I don’t think Tex would have stopped for a “little bit of rain”. We don’t have rain like Texas.

We got the boards across the spring and just need to start hanging panels. The new crossing does it in a place in the spring where the water bottom is gravel. The old crossing has a 1.5 foot hole running through it. We wanted to avoid trying to block off the hole from sheep.

We added a new gate into the momma area. The sheep always ball up at this end of the pen so we added a gate to allow them to easily leave. I think it will be very helpful to getting them in and out of the barn and sorted. Today we installed one railroad tie, I hung the gate then Tex installed the second post to allow for a good tight fitting gate. This worked very well both times we installed gates today’s.

I found this laying on the ground, protected from predators. I drilled a hole in it and mounted it on the fence. Hopefully, we find the rest of the heads floating around will get them mounted also.

Tex is all ready to go in the morning. We knocked off early so I could spend some time with Annmarie today.

Surprise Lambs!

I decided after last weekend that I needed to stay ahead of Tex. So every evening this week I went out and moved rocks for an hour. I tossed the rocks over fence so Tex could build a series of rock retaining ledges. I knew I was going to have to work Thursday night so he would need materials prestaged for Friday.

I spent Thursday morning getting more rocks and decided to clean up the Y gate area myself. I have been wanting to do this project for a couple of years but I thought it would take me a day or better to complete. In reality I had it all done in three hours! I managed to find a 600+# rock to anchor one side of the railroad tie. This meant I did not have to try and drive any pipe into the ground. The bigger rocks are actually easier to get with the tractor as they have enough mass to allow you to push them around and manipulate them into the tractor bucket.

It turned out very nice and now the lambs won’t have to work so hard to get up into the barn. As an added side effect the Y gate is easier to move and has a little more clearance. I keep hoping I can get some sort of plant to grow in this back lot, but so far I have had no luck getting anything to grow. I have started to move more soil around and create some retention walls in the hopes that I can get about a foot of soil to stay in place. Once the soil stays I will then try and find something that will sprout and grow fast in the spring then die off in the summer.

Annmarie went out Wednesday morning to let the sheep out of the barn and discovered that one of the yearling ewes had twins! She was surprised at that mother was not on the list of suspected ewes pending birth. She got the momma and both lambs into the momma baby area before I got home. They look good and one of them is a screamer.

When I went to bed Thursday I had rocks piled up and ready for Tex. Some of them ended up in the spring, but most stayed on the hillside. The goal is to create a series of small rock walls then back fill the walls with dirt so I end up with several 1-3 foot wide level areas along the hillside. Once the rocks are in place I will start in on moving some dirt. I am going to use the dirt over by the old blacksmith shop. This serves two purposes, it gets me dirt for the flowerbeds and it lets us sort through the dirt for interesting metal pieces from the blacksmith area. My only real concern is getting a flat on the tractor.

Thursday evening when I went out to feed I checked on the new lambs and one of them was not sitting up. It was all limp so I took it over to the front yard gate and set it in the sun till I was done feeding the cows. Annmarie came home about 5 minutes later and took it inside and started warming it up and feeding it. She had me bring in the selenium paste so she could feed it a supplement and she kept giving it a bottle. It was doing better by the time it got picked up but not great. The other lamb is doing fantastic. It’s hard for first time young ewes to raise twins.

Friday morning, after working all night, I came home to find Tex hard at it. Annmarie had him do the morning chores then I texted him to move more rocks, he dug out a channel for the culvert in the upper barn lot also. I need to go buy one of those culvert joining pieces so I can create a 20 foot piece instead of two 10 foot pieces. But I need to measure it first as I am not sure if it’s 24″ or 20″.

We marked out the spot for all the posts and got the auger mounted on the tractor. I went to bed while Tex kept at it. I did give him a sack lunch with cheese, meat, fruit, tortillas, water and a soda for lunch. Annmarie tells me that is not lunch but I eat that all the time for lunch! I didn’t get any complaints from Tex.

When I woke up I went out and surveyed his work. The rock walls look great! We just need to get some dirt on the hillside now so we can create the flat areas for the flowers. I am super excited to get this done as I like random wildflower beds.

We then finished drilling all the holes in the ground with the tractor. Sometimes the clay makes the auger just sit on the surface and not cut through. So I had Tex use the hand post hole digger to create a small hole in the middle and then I could power through with the tractor auger. This got us all the holes except for the two down by the water. Those required the use of a shovel and a breaker bar. The hole ended up being pretty big after digging out all the big rocks we found embedded in the hillside.

It’s supposed to rain this weekend. The grass looks amazing and we will be letting the sheep up onto the back hillside. They are keeping the upper pasture all eaten down.