We are quickly approaching the end of my Forever fridays, I am ready for them to be over. I still need to get more stuff done but work is a better mental stimulator. See broken fence, fix fence is necessary but not a lot of strain on my brain. Don’t get me wrong it needs to be done and I recognize that I just have not had so much time off in many years and it is different getting adjusted to not working. Bottom line, I like my job and I like farming but I like my job better and farming gives me the outlet to continue liking my job, complicated but true.
On Tuesday, I worked on the fence some more. I want to get it done but I am down to the little things and I am just not as good at the finish stage as I am at the tear it up and slap it together stage. I finished cleaning up the spring bed and had to move the cattle panels around with the tractor to get them in place. I just could not get them to go together and I finally gave up and disconnected them and reinstalled them one panel at a time. I had the tractor hold the panel in place then I got down and manipulated the panel into place. I just need to install a little bit of ranch panel to keep the sheep in over the large metal cow panels. After that, I mounted the windmill again, this time I moved it so it will not get affected by another flood. Basically, it ended up at my fourth choice because the first one flooded and the other two choices I drilled holes for trees which would get in the way eventually. I wanted a spot I could leave it undisturbed for a few more years. I applied a bunch of new grease to the wheel. It was totally dry but still turning. The wind and on top of the barn now only turns when the wind starts to pick up but I am not crawling 30 feet into the air on top of a metal roof just to grease the windvane. The little windmill is on a pole that I can pivot and lower, grease it and put it back up in under ten minutes. The pole is an old cedar electrical post from when they had knob and tube strung out to the barn. It’s probably over 80 years old and now that it is no longer touching the ground I am hoping to get another 50 years out of it!
The last thing I did was put the last rock crib sides on. This was the last rock crib that needed to be built. I even got two sides lined with wire. Once the last side is done I will be filling it with rocks. This crib needs to be the next one I fill. I have three left to fill, this one is the smallest and the closest to the spring channel. I also hand watered all the new plants in the flower garden. They all look pretty good. I turned on the sprinkler also.
I had a late start on Wednesday but I got the new plants in the lavender garden onto the drip system. I just need to make sure to keep the overhead sprinkler going on the flower garden plants. The drip system plants will do just fine. I am deciding whether to go to a drip system in the flower garden, but I think it will get torn out when the area floods. I am going to wait and see how it goes with the weeds next year and decide then. I picked up all my tools and garden tools and started to put them away. We are supposed to get half an inch of rain in the next three days. I am unsure what day it will arrive as the day keeps changing. I had four bags of concrete that I moved into the machine shed. When it rains I will work on organizing the machine shed and completing the wiring I started last fall. I also need to spread straw out in the barn and get it ready for animals. My last task for the day was to move the pickup and trailer over into the ram pasture. I spent the last week building a new dirt entry into the field but it is made up solely of dirt that I have compressed with the tractor. Unfortunately it has never had rain on it and in places it is almost three feet deep, I am afraid the rain will turn it into one big mud pile.
My mother gave me a haircut today and accidentally dropped the blade cover then made a first pass on my hair. I did not want a divot in my hair so I just had her cut it all the same length. It is short! I also need a little sun on my head!
Well it’s closing in on my home time, in two weeks I will be at work trying to figure out what has changed in the 6.5 weeks I have been gone. I am actually looking forward to going back and getting back in the thick of things. This is starting to affect my at home timeline. I had a friend bring over more plants on Sunday that they had culled out of their garden. I planted five more currants, four more bush raspberries and two more thornless blackberries and trimmed off about 8 blackberry pieces and shoved them into some dirt and tossed some water on them, hopefully they will grow. I have enough blackberries now. I still need about four more raspberry canes to fill in the rest of the line. I need to hammer in some pecker poles and create a couple of wire supports for the plants to grow on. I also went through the area and hoed up all of the thistles. The garden area looks much better. I am hoping that next year I can hit it early and kill all the weeds. I used Black Gold potting soil around all the plants this time to give them a jumpstart. I am going to do that with all the transplants from now on. Our soil is solid clay in places and just does not provide that initial surge growth that is needed for the plants to get well established.
I drove in early today to town and picked up more potting soil and ran errands. I was able to get everything I needed and fit it into my car. I did not want to take the rock filled trailer off of the pickup so I got it all to fit by using my trunk, backseat and front floorboard for storage.
Today, Mr Professional and his progeny came out for two hours and helped me plant the rest of the plants over in the flooded zone. The only plants that survived the flood was a male sea berry that was underwater, five echinacea plants and today I found some little bitty green plant that I remember planting but don’t remember what it is called. Nothing else survived the flood. We planted15 more plants and spread out some flower seed. Every plant got potting soil around it, it took all 8 bags I purchased plus two more from the leftovers in the lavender garden, there are only two bags left unused now. As we were planting the tiny little plants the teenager chickens kept coming into the flower area. I had not anticipated this as they are just squeezing through the large square openings in the ranch panels. The chickens will eat all of my new flowers and bushes! So then we had to string up 18 inches of chicken wire in the inside of the new fence to keep the chickens out. If I had thought of this earlier while building the fence I could of accounted for this but it did not occur at that time that the chickens would be a problem. I left two plants down in the spring water to see if they would snap back, they did not look good after staying out all night. I even watered everything last night before coming inside. Back at the fence tomorrow…
Saturday was a good day for multiple reasons. I had a new helper out to work on fence with me. He kept with it and never complained. It took me longer than usual to come up with a name and I had 2-3 to choose from but I finally settled on Mr DirtClean. I watched him wash his hands with dirt on three separate occasions. I was not going to use this name as it does actually help get stickers out of your hands and we were working in the weeds, but when he spilled some fermented rice must on himself moving the large plastic container he rubbed dirt into it in an attempt to get the smell out! That single act cemented the name, and the smell did not go away with the dirt, it just made mud!
We hauled another three trailer loads of rock down to the barn lot on top of using the two and half loads we already had piled up. It took about four loads of rock to fill the three rock cribs on the far end of the ram pasture. We still have four more rock cribs to fill but they are all smaller than the main two we filled Saturday. There is probably only about another 1-2 loads of rock up on the hillside left in the area we are picking. I would have to drive farther down the fence line and find another pile of rocks. Mr DirtClean does not like snakes either, I spotted a three foot bull snake slithering away and pointed it out, he was not impressed. The momma/baby area fence is upright hanging up by two fence tighteners. I am unsure if I can even drive in the needed three T-posts so I may end up building a small triangle rock crib out of the old cedar posts laying around. It just needs to stop all the animals inside the fence from pushing the fence out. I will know on Sunday when I go out and finish it up. I am working solo on Sunday.
We got 0.01 inches of rain Friday night and Saturday morning we saw clear skies for the first time in almost two weeks. The rain cleared out all the smoke from the forest fires. It was just enough rain to clear up the sky and it was amazing!
We had some friends come out and we had pizza for dinner out on the front lawn. I need to mow the front lawn, a long discussion of pros and cons about using the sheep to mow the lawn was had. We need an outside dining area setup. I want to do it on the backside of the house, it just requires more fencing! They stayed until dusk and spotted an owl that came to visit and while we were out showing them the lavender garden a bat was spotted flying around behind the house. The bats live in the trees. The alpaca were even gracious enough to get into a screaming fight to add to the atmosphere of our farm life.
Annmarie was not impressed with the three different types of chairs and old warped table I found to put the pizza on. We definitely need to up our entertainment cred some more.
So strange to think that I will have to return to work. I have really enjoyed by time away and am getting lots done around the farm. I have spent the last three days concentrating on the barn lot fence. We need that fence to be completed so we can maneuver animals around this winter and allow them to go where needed but to to stay out of other areas. I had some help this week and it made all the difference in the world.
I am going to dig some flood irrigation ditches to come out of our back irrigation ditch so we can get more water out onto the fields. This should help us with the feed.
On Wednesday we started in on getting the area for animals stuck in the ram pasture water access. The chickens are not super happy with all the changes as they are now beholden to following the same path as the large animals. They really are not as they could squeeze between the cow panel squares. It will just take them some time to learn this trick.
I think I have designed the fence this time so that the panels will break away under water pressure and allow the flood waters to pass. I have anchored the posts with large rock cribs and even went so far as to alter the way I am making H-braces. I used to use smooth wire and then use a post to twist the wire to make it tight. The problem is in a couple of years the wire gets slightly loose and I want to retighten it but cannot as there is now woven and smooth wire going over the H-brace. I am now using high tension wire and tightener spools with small crimp on tighteners. I can ratchet the wire super tight and in the future I can retighten easily. I even went so far as to cut small notches at the sides of the railroad tie to let the wire lay in so there was not any pressure on a staple. It took me about halfway through the fence construction before I realized I should have been doing that all along. All the other posts have three two inch staples holding them in place. Fencing is definitely an art and over the years I learn something new every time I do a major rebuild. I look at why the fence broke and or how the animals got out and then try to rebuild to prevent that in the future. I also look at how other people have overcome some of these obstacles.
By Thursday we were down to just the fence in the momma/baby area left to be completed. The real crime here is that none of the rock cribs have rocks in them! We will have to go back and fill them all with rocks. I think I have a plan for that this year. I am going to take the 16 foot trailer up on the upper CRP and next to the fence line there are huge piles of rocks that have been removed from the field piled up next to the fence. I can pick up those rocks with the tractor, place them into the flat bed attached to the pickup and then when its full pull it down into the barn lot. Picking rocks up on the hillside one bucket at a time and driving them to the barn lot takes a lot of time. The trailer will hold 7500# of rock at one time.
Today we had to build two more rock cribs for the Momma/baby area. I wanted to get them almost 16 feet apart so we can have one cattle panel hanging between them and allow the water to push it away. The only real problem is I could not get them far enough up the hill to make a really good valley for the water between them. This means they are likely to be surrounded by water if the water level gets too high. We made the cribs 4×5 feet and will fill them to the top with rocks. I need them to be massive enough that the water will not mess with them. I do realize that constant water would eat at them but I only need them to withstand flood stage for 1-2 days a year.
I am getting pretty good at using the tractor and guessing how much weight you can manipulate in the bucket and not tip the tractor over! The tamarack 2x8x16 foot boards I got last year are amazing! They look great and are in great shape. I expect them to last an easy 20 years. Mr Professional and I went up to the upper fence line and using the tractor, pickup and trailer ended up getting 2.5 loads of rocks! We used the tractor to load them and then I just backed the trailer up until it was on a downhill slope in the barn lot and we rolled the rocks out the back end of the trailer. The incredibly large rocks will go behind the barn where I am building a retaining wall so we don’t keep losing soil down into the spring. I don’t want any rocks under 100# for the retaining wall base.
After taking yesterday off to drive around doing errands I was ready to get back at it today. I went into town at the early time of 0900 after two cups of coffee, some breakfast and I did all the dishes and started the dishwasher. Not in a big rush during this time off, everyone tells me I am supposed to be relaxing, this is me relaxing, not starting until 0900. I went into town with the trailer to pick up a bunch of fencing supplies and a couple of new gates. My plan is to widen the access to the back barn lot and to create a funnel shape so the animals can be pushed toward the gate and go through easier than the flat open eight foot gate that was there before. This afternoon, Mr Professional and his progeny came out to help me. In five hours we got done what would have probably taken me two solid days to finish alone, maybe more. We got half of the fencing completed. Completed is a strong term since there are now three rock cribs built that need to be filled with rocks. But the fence is up and those rock cribs are made out of railroad ties that are buried 2.5 feet into the ground and set with gravel then screwed together with 2×8 boards to make the crib. They are pretty secure now they just need the extra weight to make them storm proof.
The opening to the back barn lot is now sixteen feet not eight and there is a definite V shaped funnel going on. I was even able to make a protected spot for a tree. I just need to put another board up to limit the horses ability to reach over and munch on the top of the tree. I will be making another two tree spots tomorrow. The trees will help create anchor spots along the creek bed and we like them. We are going to plant black walnut trees.
As the day progressed the smoke was getting thicker, you could see it rolling down the hills. There is a 50 acre fire up in the mountains near us and it is only a day old now. It looks like we may be wearing our N95 masks tomorrow as we work outside. This is fine with me as long as we get to keep working.
I picked up some bird food today and we are going to start trying to feed the quail in our front yard. I will start in the morning. We love the quail! There were also raccoon tracks in the dust in the barn lot. This is not surprising but not good news. I will be responding appropriately to all raccoon sounds in the middle of the night! Save the chickens!!!!