Crawling along

I was only able to fence on Saturday and Sunday this weekend as I had to work on Friday. I have to say that if you don’t need to wear the waterproof overalls, coat and boots then don’t, cause that much rubber will keep you dry from the rain but if its not freezing you will sweat a gallon of water inside it. I was able to work all weekend in just the rubber boots and it was pleasant. Now the wind kept gusting then vanishing so I kept taking layers off then putting them back on but at least I can change the layers. I got all of the wooden posts set on Saturday. I had about 1/3 yard of gravel left over and I tossed it on top of the culvert. The culvert has a nice 6″ layer of gravel over it. Saturday afternoon before going inside I loaded the pickup with 2×6 boards so I could go out first thing on Sunday morning and start installing H-braces. I was worried about having enough 2×6 boards left from the corral build but after loading them I had 16 in the back of the pickup and in the end only used 14.

I was going to install the H braces and tighten them with wire but Annmarie wanted me to clean out the pickup and install the stock racks on it before dark so after doing three complete braces I realized I was going to have to stick to just cutting the boards and screwing everything together. I will come back and tighten all the H braces later. Each cross piece is made out of two boards screwed together. Because I kept each brace 6-8′ apart I was able to use one 2×16′ board on each brace. This left me with two full boards over the spring and two full boards to connect the long straight stretches. I need those boards to keep the bull from just lifting the fence at these intersections which he has learned to do.

I had some visitors while I was down by the old schoolhouse. All of our cows in the lower fields came out to see me. Zeke keeps jumping the yard fence to come see me also. I have either been making him stay in the back of the pickup or lay under the pickup for a few hours. Annmarie tells me at night that he doesn’t look like he hated spending the day with me. I just wish he would stay in the yard.

I was able to get the stock rack on with some help and we will be sorting sheep on Monday to send two whethers to the college for butchering Tuesday morning.

Fencing blues

Well it’s going to be a long month as I will be fencing by myself. I spent last weekend working on getting more posts set in the ground! I needed to set as many as possible and all of the wooden posts down by the schoolhouse need to be hand dug. I knew if I dug them out with the tractor the holes would be too big.

I also figured out that I need to install another gate in the cross fence that I had not originally planned. I need to be able to go from the front field into the area around the back creek without going through the bottom area. This way I can let the animals down here briefly without letting them get into a newly planted bottom. Mind you, I have not replanted the bottom yet but it is on the agenda to do in the next two years. This picture shows where I want to install the gate. There is just enough room here to get a homemade gate I had laying around installed. I will just need to hand dig two more holes, set two new wooden posts, install 2 more H-braces and re-stretch two sections of fence. More work for me, I just cannot seem to let it lie half done or not done like I want it. I am always looking for functionality and the ability to go around or move from one pasture to the next.

On Sunday, Mr Expert came out and brought a couple of helpers for about three hours. It made a huge difference. We were able to get all of the hand dug holes completed and we set all but 4 railroad ties, 7 wooden posts and 7 T posts that need driven into the ground. I have used another 2 cubic yards of gravel setting wooden posts. I keep tossing the extra out on the dirt covering my newly installed culvert.

The alpaca are incredibly lazy. The brown one in the picture was laying down and eating. That is pretty dang lazy. I was late and did not get my cutting blades from last year sharpened on time. So I ordered new ones but by the time they got here it was too cold to shear the alpaca. They are truly overgrown. It has been two years since I sheared them. There will be some nice long fibers when I do it in the spring. As soon as the rain lets up the alpaca are getting sheared. We were just talking about them as we have no idea how old they are. We have had them 6 years. They lead a very lackadaisical existence.

Lone Fencer

I have spent the last two days fencing by myself. My helper, Tex, has been a no show. This has caused me to have to adjust my timeline. Together we can do as much work as I can do in about 2.5=3 days. Alone, I am a lot slower, so I have started concentrating on the things that matter. Getting the posts in the ground before it freezes matters. So yesterday I staged all the supplies we had in the back of the pickup and started to clean out post holes by hand. The tractor auger can dig them but they still need to be finished off by hand. I needed the pickup empty so I could bring the railroad ties then a load of gravel into the lower field. The trailer will not go up the hill. I figured out how to load the railroad ties with the tractor today. I was just going to dump them over the side but if I slid the tie down I was able to catch the end of the tie under the top edge of the bucket and just lift it up longwise. This let me just slide it in the end of the pickup! It worked great and meant I only had to slide the tie by hand about three feet. Unfortunately, I had to unload the ties by hand on the other end but only having to lift it once instead of twice was an improvement. I put ties in all the corners and filled the first stretch of fencing. I want to get a section done then move onto the next section. I will leave the wire install as the second to last step, installing the gates is the last step. Wire can be installed when the ground is frozen, posts cannot be pounded into the ground by hand when the ground is frozen. I am learning to prioritize.

I set all the wooden posts in gravel. It just makes things easier and the posts stay tight. I put seven tractor bucket scoops in the back of the pickup. I only needed about 5.5 to set all the wooden posts but the leftovers went over the newly installed culvert. It is still a mud pit as it keeps raining every day. I am hoping the gravel mixing into the mud will make a nice hard surface eventually.

I got the first section all ready, T-posts are installed and this time I even managed to keep them in a straight line. This section goes to a six foot gate, I of course purchased a eight foot gate. Luckily, I have an extra six foot gate on the place already and will use the eight foot gate somewhere else in the future.

This picture below shows the first section of fence I am installing, it goes from one end of the picture to the other. Directly in the middle of the picture is a lone bush along the creek, that is where I am at with T-posts. So I am about half way on them, but tonight after finishing setting the wooden posts I started to pound in T-posts again but I just ran out of oomph! I hit that last T-post about 25 times and knew I was done for the day.

The baby chickens are growing! I had to raise the self waterer another 1/2 inch. They have to be able to reach up to peck at the nipples or it doesn’t work right. This week they are going to finish off the first 50# bag of crumble food. I will need to buy another 50# and then hopefully after that is out I can go to pellets. We are getting 3 eggs a day from 8 chickens now. The 23 chicks won’t start laying until spring but then we will have 30 laying hens! We are only selling about 3-4 dozen a month now.

We ordered the trickle charger for the side by side. The battery is dead and I cannot start it. I am told that this is a common problem for UTV. The trickle charger will stop it. This means I need to wire in a 110v outlet near the side by side parking spot, so I brought all the stuff to wire in lights and switches and once the fence is installed I will be wiring lights on the tractor and lights in the machine shop.

New or recycle?

The weather has been nasty the last two days. Yesterday I had to bundle up in 100% waterproof getup so I could go out and drill holes in the ground with the tractor. The longest stretch of fence is ready for posts and I have started on the two corner stretch already. The long stretch is about 2/3 of the fence-line. I was able to purchase new teeth for my auger. I took a picture so you can see that I should have replaced them sooner. The really worn down teeth were the ones on the outside. I am still waiting on the new center piece but the auger works much better now! I had to go away from my desire for an aggressive center piece as it would not stand up to the rocks that get thrown at it.

One of the things that Tex and I decided was that we really needed a piece of culvert placed in the irrigation ditch. Even though I cannot get the trailer down into the field we will be able to drive the tractor across and not get stuck when weighed down. We are going to use the pickup to move the supplies and it would not make it through the ditch. So I went to the local junk yard and found a piece the appropriate length and installed it. I have a few issues down by the school house. The ditch did not get dug out this year. It needed it down by the schoolhouse. It has jumped its channel and is flood irrigating. I ended up having to spend 30 minutes digging out the channel to get everything back in place. The only real problem was I used the mud to fill in around the culvert. Not my greatest idea but it is raining and there is no spare dirt pile. So yesterday I brought a bucket full of gravel to toss on it and I will do the same today. I may need a few loads but we just had another 10 yards delivered to my never ending gravel pile so there is plenty for this. I just go through the ditch backwards with the tractor. I am getting stuck about half the time but going backwards I just use the bucket to push myself out and off I go.

I have to say that fall is here, when the sun drops down it gets cold very quickly. Another good clue is when the sun breaks through the clouds and shines directly on you the work stops just so you can bask it its heat! Good clue that you might be getting chilled slowly. The ground has a solid layer of clay about 18″ down so the holes are still taking a while but they are going in and I am not digging them all by hand.

I lost my coffee cup yesterday! I was driving from the house, up the hill and down to the school house then across the ditch. I didn’t realize it was missing until I got to the fence-line so I am unsure where it leaped off. Luckily I had a thermos full and it will keep you warm, just take a small cup every hour or so. I have also decided that pepperoni sticks are the perfect tractor snack. They come in a container about the size of a thermos, its dust proof and waterproof. The container opening is large enough you can reach inside without having to remove your gloves. A little rain does not alter the taste or the consistency of said perfect snack. Plus you can store it on the tractor so it is always available! The perfect tractor snack.

I am trying to enter the modern age and last week I accidentally turned on my cell phone camera timer. It took me a while to figure out what I had done to turn it off. Its highly annoying to have to hold the phone up for 10 seconds while you wait for it to take a picture. I figured maybe I could use this function for selfies. The picture below is my first attempt at a selfie. The alpaca look good. I then turned the camera and shot into the building so there was no extra light and it worked. This is my working in the rain outfit. It worked, I did not get wet. It was still cold out in the rain and wind. It blew a 8″ branch out of one of our large trees it was blowing so hard.

On the way back to the house, after having filled all the tires full of mud digging out the ditch, I had to traverse down a steep hillside. It was slick and had a skim of mud on it. I realized this as I was speeding up going down the hill and had angled the front bucket down to use as an emergency brake just in case. As I was nearing the bottom and the gates I was just contemplating engaging the emergency bucket brake when the back end of the tractor slid sideways and I started sliding down the hill diagonally. I opted to immediately deploy my preplanned safety device and we stopped! Luckily, I do wear my seat belt. I had removed the tractor from four wheel drive and this was rectified after I opened the gates and crawled down and across the stream bed.

The nice thing about this entirely new fence is this is the first time I have done it since moving back to the farm. I have always reused materials from the scrap yard. The only thing I don’t reuse is barb wire, but all the T-posts and woven wire are from the junkyard. I did this thinking I was saving 50% in costs. Well now I am not so sure. I was able to build the first section of fence, about 750′ in six days. Now I put in 48 hours and Tex put in 24 hours but it was done. It looks good and it doesn’t really need the wooden stays. In materials alone I had $2000. I am now working on the next section of fence, 1100′ and its even cheaper, $1600. Now I am using some of my old cedar posts down by the school house for aesthetic reasons but it would have only needed five more railroad ties. So when you average that out the fence, in materials only cost around $1.89/foot. A new heavy duty T-post costs $4.29. I am buying them at the junkyard for $2. The trouble with this is I have to buy the T clips for the used posts at a cost of $1.20 per post, they come free with the new posts. The speed at which I can install the new woven wire is amazing! A new roll costs $160/330 feet. I pay about $65 for that used. But it’s a hassle to install, I have to mix and match sizes and then go back and patch holes and the wooden stays that cost $1.50 each are necessary. The new woven wire goes right up. I am going to try another fence brand new and keep track of the costs but I think I just need to plan on $2/foot and do it all new. Time is my enemy and something I am constantly fighting. New will save me time.

Fence stretcher use level 9

Yep, my vacation is turning into real work. Sometimes I think that I do this stuff so that I can enjoy working in a temperature controlled environment more. I know that I don’t do as much physical work at my place of employment as I do on the farm. I am finally into the ache all over phase of my vacation. My back no longer hurts incessantly, my entire body just has a dull ache except for the two fingertips with splinters in them, they feel like little needles under my skin! I have even had to start using lotion on my hands and sanding down my callouses. I need to have nice smooth, soft supple hands for my paying job. I am wearing gloves but only about 65% of the time. It should be >90% but they get in the way of some things so I take them off and get callouses.

Yesterday we got the upper 40% fence installed! I finished tightening the woven wire using a lot of fence tighteners. Tex tells me I need to be using a come-a-long to get it tight enough. It’s pretty tight now. He came out in the afternoon and we finished it up. The only thing missing is the panel over the spring culvert outlet. This is coming from moving a chunk of fence in the orchard. I can salvage two utility panels, a length of cable, and four railroad ties for the price of two railroad ties and 7 T posts I just need my tractor back so I can start hauling gravel to set the railroad ties. Tex was pulling on a metal hinge while we were hanging gates and his fingers slipped and he wacked himself in the genitals. He did not hit the ground and roll around like a beached fish. He did pause, stop moving, bend forward two inches and practice his breathing in silence. He survived and we got the gate hung.

In my effort to get to the fencing right away I accidentally left a large bag of trash on the front porch. I did not know this until Annmarie came home and told me that the dogs had a party all day courtesy of me providing the favors. It was not horrible as it only took me ten minutes to clean up. Good thing we throw all food things out to the chickens so there was nothing in the trash for the dogs.

Today, I went to town to run errands and pick up some flags to mark the new section of fence. I usually just paint the ground but it is supposed to rain for several days and I don’t want things to wear off too quickly. Tex and I figured out the best way to lay the fence and then we measured out all the T-posts and railroad ties. An accurate count was needed before I went to the store and purchased a bunch of new fencing supplies. We also took 30 minutes and cleaned up all of the bricks, wood and rocks from the ground around the old schoolhouse. I just need to pull out the one pipe that is sticking up and it will be safe to make hay down there. This is the perfect time of year to discover and remove any normally hidden obstacles. We figured out what was needed and then we figured out how we could get it into the field. I cannot pull the trailer across the ditch. I really need a culvert installed and I am out of culvert. I tried calling the junk yard twice today but did not get an answer. I may have to drive over there first thing tomorrow and see if I can pick some up. I really need to get this fence done so I can reimbursed. I have spent $3600 in just fencing supplies. The gravel needed to set the posts, the fencing staples and all the wood used for the H brace crosses are not charged against the cost.

I saw 25 quail cruise on by outside the kitchen window. I talked to one of our hunters and he said that he saw another 60 on the upper end of the property. This is the most quail we have ever had on the place. He said there are very few pheasants this year. I disagreed and in the last two days I have seen four more roosters just flying around. I agree that we do not have as many as last year but there are still a bunch of them. There are no deer. I did not shoot a little buck this year. My very first time I did not find one on the property. Hopefully, I will get a tag next year and there will be a little buck running around for me.

Beef or Turkey?

I went out to the old house to get some stew meat for dinner yesterday. I was going to be fencing all day and didn’t want to mess with something in the evening. I found beef soup bones and stew meat. I was going to just toss them in the slow cooker and remembered we had some frozen broth. I am trying to clean out the in house freezer. So I tossed in the frozen chunk of broth base and two packages of frozen beef, some spices and onions. I went outside and picked fresh carrots and dug up fresh potatoes. I cut up the carrots and washed up the potatoes. I set my phone alarm so I could come back to the house for lunch and toss it all into the slow cooker. When I came back at lunch time I realized that I had used turkey base! Annmarie and I had just had a discussion about me labeling frozen packages because I brought in two things from freezer and neither was labeled. I asked Annmarie and she didn’t know. She thinks one might be prime rib. I put it in the fridge to thaw out, I should be able to tell when it is no longer a solid lump. The stew was fantastic and no one noticed the discrepancy! Another win for mystery freezer food.

Our washing machine fabric softener dispenser stopped working last week. Annmarie wanted me to call the repairman but I figured I should dig into it first. I had to call the plumber to come fix our deep sink faucet. It runs continuously, he should be here some time this week to look at it. I tried tightening down the packing but it only worked for a little bit and now the handle moved 360 degrees and the leak is worse.

So I watched a You Tube video on how to clean out the fabric softener dispenser. WOW, it took me almost an hour to clean it out, I had to resort to using a tooth brush to get all the little nooks and crannies clean. It works now but I need to add that to my list, needs to happen more than every few years.

I went out and started putting woven wire up on the fence. I always forget how long it takes to put the clips on. They take forever and each T post gets 4 clips on the woven wire. I got 2/3 of the woven wire up and Tex came out in the late evening and got the last 1/3 up and top clipped to hold it in place. I will finish clipping it in place today and hopefully get the gates hung also. Then I can start marking out the next section of fencing tomorrow. I still have one more week of vacation.

I contacted the grant people and once the fence is finished they will come out and take pictures and get the supplies reimbursed.

Old man auger

Sunday, I got out early and started to work on drilling more post holes. My poor post hole auger is on its last leg. I swapped teeth around again so each side has one half decent tooth and one side its on the outside and the other inside. I was hoping between the two they could make some headway. It did work kinda. The holes took 20 minutes to dig. I had to keep changing the angle of the auger with the tractor to get the working teeth to dig in. I felt like an old man pushing steak around in his mouth to chew it up enough for swallowing! It was painful. I hope the tractor supply place has them on hand but we got all 19 holes dug out. We had to finish 5 by hand, one had a huge rock in it and the other was chock full of fist size rocks. My shear bolt did not break 1/4″ bolt but one of my auger support bolts 7/16 sheared off. I was unable to get the new bolt as the auger had shifted due to the other bolt bending. So I unbolted the other bolt and attempted to beat it out. It would not budge, but. I was able to install the new bolt. After the beating the nut would not go back on so I just put a new bolt in my tool carrier mounted on the tractor and told Tex we would replace it when it self extricates. It held up for 3 more holes.

It was a beautiful morning, overcast, not too hot, not too cold and I only needed a long sleeve shirt to be comfortable. This is necessary so that when you start working hard you can remove more clothing.

Tex had promised me he would be there in the morning as he had made a commitment. I have to say that at times I think teenagers are easier to deal with than early 20’s adults. Call it my personal experience bias but it is frustrating. Tex did not show up. I set a couple of posts and then went to set a gate post that Tex had dropped in its hole. It was too close, the hole needed to be moved back four inches. I could not pull the post out of the ground! I had seen him struggling with it from across the field on Saturday but I had not lifted a railroad tie yet. I should have known after getting slapped down by the fencing supplies on Saturday. I was attempting to remove the straps holding everything onto the trailer and four ties had shifted and were leaning onto the four gates running the length of the trailer. I was standing right next to the trailer, my shoulder next to the gates when I let the cross strap loose. Those ties dropped over and slammed the gate into my shoulder driving me to the ground. Luckily they did not leap off the trailer and body check me to the ground. I laid there sprawled out on the ground making sure I was still in one piece then used the tractor to pull the railroad ties off of the trailer. My two sudden potentially harrowing instances on the farm have come from shifting loads.

I had to use the tractor to pull the post out of the ground and then had cut the hole four more inches. The ground is still pretty dang hard and dry despite the green everywhere.

I hammered in the long stretch of T posts there is a slight curve in my line. I must need more practice but after averaging the number of hits required to drive in a single T post (15 smacks) I was unwilling to redo the entire section for a 5 inch arc. I will just pull the fence tighter. I knew we were working hard when my forearm started to cramp up from using the breaker bar and post hole driver. It feels like someone is pinching me with a hot pair of pliers. I love getting more “mature”.

Tex did show up at 1045 and worked till dark. He overslept, thought he had set an alarm. Like I said, teenagers may be easier. We made great progress and got all 19 railroad ties set in gravel and ready to go. They were so heavy that Tex made me lift my one side on every railroad tie we put in the ground! He was not going to move them alone at all. The very last two we almost had to use the tractor on they were so heavy.