It’s happening again, the battles have continued and both sides have sustained casualties. For the last few weeks when the dogs go outside they have been tearing out the door and off the porch. We even flip th outside light off and on to warn any cats that the dogs are coming. They have been barking at things that we assumed were cats out in the yard. This morning as I was letting them out to head to work in the dark the tone of their barking was far more menacing. I ran back into the house and grabbed my new 22 pistol. The pistol needs sighted in but I had my hearing aids in and the pistol has a muffler on it, making my audiologist happy, to keep the noise under 85db. It is fairly quiet. There was a bag of black sunflowers on the old porch that I have been feeding the quail from and there was a raccoon in it! I shot it twice then heard this chittering noise. It is pitch black outside and the border collies abandoned me as soon as I ran out with the pistol. They do not like the noise. I waved the flashlight around and spotted three more raccoons! They had climbed up the porch railings and were hanging there. I tried to shoot one off the railing and realized I was out of ammunition. I had not brought more and I had not reloaded after the last melee. I usually only squeeze off a couple of rounds and then am done shooting. I had to run back in the house to grab another clip and reload. The raccoons all started running for the back dry creek bed when I left. I managed to find two up in the large bush behind our house and dispatched them. The 3rd and 4th got away but I am pretty sure there will only be one tonight. I plan on leaving the seed out so I can see if the last one can be dispatched. I found two dead chickens tonight when I was getting eggs and my 30 chickens are only laying 5 eggs/day, something is upsetting them.
When I came home tonight the dogs and I went into the upper pastures and pushed the sheep back down into the barn. It was not horrible, my voice did get a little hoarse after directing two border collies. After we had everyone in the barn I drove the two carcasses up to one of our boneyards. The Border Collies got to tear it up and run around on our place while I drove the tractor. They don’t get out much when I am on the tractor because they disappear. They will sneak off and either harass the deer or sneak back and harass the livestock. Sometimes they will stay in the field and just kill voles but after eating 15-20 voles when they fart it is a terrible smell. So mostly they have to stay in the yard unless they are working animals. The occasional jaunt is good for them. I would bring them more often but they are just too animal focused and will lock onto anything and attempt to control it. There is no real off switch, its needed but it can be annoying. This is the real reason people don’t understand the breed, you cannot let them get bored and they must have a large amount of exercise or they will make you crazy and develop bad habits.
I am continuing my pursuit of old marbles. I have a few people who look for them for me when they go to yard sales. These bad boys have been washed and polished and are ready for the container up in our office. The one in the living room is full already. It usually takes me a few years to fill one of the containers up. I like them and they remind me of playing with them as a kid which always brings a smile to my face.
The chickens are trying to die again. It is a battle sometimes to keep them alive. I heard Gizmo barking outside in the dark so I ran out with the pistol locked and loaded. Gizmo was being an idiot and was barking at nothing. I peeked over at the chicken coop just to be safe and spotted multiple chickens locked out of the coop. I had to go back inside and put something on my feet that was not slippers. I found nine chickens outside the coop! I tossed them all back into the coop and only a couple were upset about it, most made no noise at all. There are 39 chickens in the coop with at least three roosters and one very old hen. I am going to cull them soon. I keep saying that but I really wanted the babies to develop enough that I can see how many roosters are in the free chicks so they can be done all at once.
Our freestanding propane stove in the dining room does not work, I called two weeks ago and talked to the heating guy. He put me on the list. This week the temperature drops below freezing and no heating guy. I called on Wednesday, he answered and led conversation with the fact he would be out on Thursday or Friday. I told him if he wasn’t I was going to have the wife start calling him! He laughed and made it out on Friday. We need a new thermostat and a spider had made a nest in the pilot light hole and was preventing the stove from lighting. We can now turn the stove on or off and have purchased a $10 fan that sits behind the stove on the ground to blow air around it. Due to the existing heating system distribution we can only heat the downstairs to about 64 without the freestanding stove. Once the freestanding stove works we only use the main furnace as a fan to circulate the hot air throughout the house.
Thursday night was supposed to be coldest day this fall so Annmarie and I went out to feed the animals for the first time in the barn. I needed to move a large bale of hay into Alcatraz area and Annmarie headed to the barn. We were dressed for cold weather as we are simply not used to it yet. We both had head lamps but I chose not to turn mine one. I usually blind Annmarie with it when we are out after dark and I knew where the tractor was. I am trudging along at a fast pace mere six feet from the tractor when I managed to step into the harrow and then attempt a third step, this caused me to fall forward into the dark. I managed to catch myself on the ground with my arms but my left shin was pinned up against the harrow support bar. I managed to tweak my knee and have a bone bruise but nothing else. I turned my head lamp on right after that and kept it on the whole time. I may want to do this all the time!
I had to divert from field work on Sunday to take care of a couple of OMG its going to freeze items on the to do list. I fed the cows. I like to try and hold off until November but it was just not going to wait any longer. Annmarie had a great idea, we are going to feed one bale in the orchard and one bale in the pea field (#7 if we use the same counting and a total of 10 fields delineated by fence). This forces the cows to choose and not run off certain cows. I will swing the gates and isolate them to this area only in a few weeks when the weather gets bitter cold. I also had to fill in the ditch we dug this summer to fix the main water line leak. I had not done that yet, so I took the time to fill in the ditch with the piled up dirt I had dug out. It took a lot less time to fill it in than it did to dig it out. After that was all done then I did go pull the disc around.
I spent Monday and Tuesday evening/early nights on the tractor dragging the harrow around. This would have been easier if I had burned off the field first. It keeps getting clogged up with dead plant debris. The upper wheat field (#1) is so rutted from the flooding this spring that it just bounces you all over the place. It’s brutal to sit on that little tractor and get bounced like a monkey in a cage. If if did not keep my seatbelt on I would get tossed off of the tractor. The harrow has a bar and rolling compactor in the back, its an arena groomer, so I am able to really smooth out the field but it means going over the entire field a second time!
Driving around in circles leaves lots of time to think. There are definitely more mice out in the dark then daylight. Unfortunately, there are not six hawks and the local kestrel resident swooping down and killing them at night. I started wishing for owls to drop out of the sky and swoop down and catch mice but none came. Then I thought it would be cool if large mice eating bats would drop out of the sky and start picking up and flying off with mice, very cool. But then it dawned on me that the bats would probably have to be fairly big and blood suckers. It sounded less cool after that so I went on to large spiders. But then I figured the spiders homes would be in the very dirt I was turning up and then the tractor is not tall enough and has no cab. I do not want huge spiders crawling all over me. I went back to my original idea of owls, owls are safe. I had to give it up Tuesday night after a harrow part came loose and I needed two wrenches and only had one on the tractor. It was a sign from above to be done.
Annmarie finished our third batch of apple butter. Really our ninth as we keep making triple batches. My suggestion was to double the spice and cut sugar down from 6 cups to 5 cups. When I came back inside she had tripled the spices and kept the same sugar. It tasted like she had added about half as much sugar as the last batch where she only used 1.5 times the spice. This #3 batch is the best! We are looking to see if we have enough apples for a fourth batch.
Today Mr Professional came out and blew water out of our sprinkler lines and picked up hoses. It is supposed to drop down to mid teens by Saturday and snow. I have not managed to plant yet. I am hoping next week after it warms up I can finish it all up. This is not easy to get all the things done in a day. I finally took tonight off and cleaned up the kitchen, cleaned the hard water deposits off of our apple butter jars and worked on the blog.
Winter is definitely coming, it probably should have been here already but it is time to get ready. Thinking about all the things that need to be done before it freezes. I am also trying to get the fields ready to be planted also. It’s a tough balancing act and I am hoping winter holds off just a little longer, maybe another six weeks!
My mother picked her apple trees so we now have over a 100# of apples. I loved the apple butter Annmarie made last year, I ate all of it! So I wanted lots more this time, unfortunately we thought we had purchased an apple peeler/corer/slicer for our KitchenAid. We had not and had even tossed out our old hand crank one. So while she was in Walla Walla both of us went to various stores until I got lucky and found one. This made processing the apples much easier. We ran them through food processor afterwords and then used an immersion blender in the hot pan. The single biggest takeaway from this was do NOT start apple butter cooking at 1900. This process involved many steps and cannot be rushed. I finished it at 0100. We did a triple batch and got 11 pints, one I ate the next day and two I talked Annmarie into over filling which caused the lids to crease. They are now in the fridge waiting for new homes. I have two people that are willing to eat them right up and not store them. We now have a plan and first thing in the morning I will help Annmarie with the corer/peeler/slicer and once it is cooking I can go outside and do farm work, Annmarie will finish canning them.
I had Mr DirtyClean come out on Wednesday and do four hours of discing. He had a few open hours and I needed the help. Thursday, I went out and disced for a little over five hours. I am averaging about 1.5 hours per acre to get them torn up. After I am done with the disc I will run the arena groomer over it again and knock up the clots and smooth it out. I also want to put the manure forks on the bucket so I can scoop up any weed piles while I am smoothing it out. I think I need about another 6-7 hours to finish field #1. The kestrel is definitely living up there somewhere. I see it every time I go to that end of the farm.
We had to load up two more cows for the butcher Thursday evening. I used the tractor to push the cows into the ram pasture. I was able to drive the new cow/calf pair but once she got into the ram pasture she got in a corner of the pasture and would not move. She kept trying to get at the tractor. This is of course the cow we wanted to turn into hamburger for this exact reason!! So now she gets to keep the calf and we have to keep her away from the bull for another 9-12 months.
Annmarie had to come out and get the cows to go through the gate into the back barn lot. I was having zero luck with my stick and with the newborn calf we could not use the dogs. After she got tire of me waving a stick around in the air and the cows just going around me she jumped off the tractor, started hollering and waving the stick and she had them through the gate and into the corral in about five minutes. I just told her they all knew she was pissed and wanted to avoid it. She does not appreciate my ineptitude at times. It’s a learning process and 13 years later I am still learning!! It seems so natural for some but definitely not me.
The next morning she had to come out and help me get the two cows into the trailer. I had a hard time getting the steer in through the chute. His horns were so wide he could not walk down the chute. His lolly gagging caused the heifer to jump back out of the trailer and now they were head to head in the chute. I kept running them out of the chute and trying to get them back into the trailer. After the third attempt I brought the dogs into the corral and used them on the steer. He did not like the dogs and kept going for them instead of going into the chute. Zeke likes to bite between the horns or on the nose, Mouse likes to bite the back heels or tail. So when the steer went for one dog the other got him. I had been at this a few minutes when Annmarie came out. I managed to get the steer into the trailer by using the dogs to push him down the chute unfortunately the heifer decided to go crazy and jump out. We got them into the trailer and when I delivered them they just calmly walked out. The attendant was surprised at how placid they were. I told him they were just tired.
Well now that I am back to work I only have time to blog occasionally again. My goal is still 6-8 posts/month and I have done pretty good this year keeping to it. I was driving to work early Tuesday and spotted a coyote in our driveway. I knew we had one on the property as a friend had called and told me they had spotted it in the stubble field. A coyote hanging around the place is bad for the sheep. One of our nephews shot the coyote this week! So the sheep are safe and I don’t have to spend time hunting it down. Tonight, Annmarie spotted a porcupine on our back hillside. Luckily we dispatched it before the dogs discovered it or we would be going to the vet with three dogs. Annmarie is pretty sure the dogs tangled with a raccoon in the dark early one morning this week. Winter is coming, the predators are starting to come in to the buildings and head towards the chicken coop. The vet bill to sedate three dogs, remove quills and come in on an emergency basis, around $800-1000 for enquiring minds. Our oldest border collie has a torn up ear from wrestling with something in the yard this week. The dogs are valuable team members with a very specific job and they need to do that as we are going to have to start moving animals for selling and feeding in the barn.
We took our first two cows in to be butchered. Thursday evening Annmarie took both border collies into the upper fields and pushed the cows down into the corral. Mr Professional and I showed up after she had the cows in the corral. We sorted off two cows for slaughter. It helps that most of the bunch were on the menu but we just snagged a couple of the bigger ones and sorted them off into the third pen. We then pushed everyone else out and gave them water overnight. I backed the horse trailer up to the chute so I could just open the chute up and push the cows into the trailer first thing in the morning. We had to be there by 0730. The cows are all pretty skittish as they have not seen a human for about two months. Friday morning I just opened up some gates and pushed the cows into the trailer and off we went, took 10 minutes and we were on the road. We are going to have to drop off the cows two at a time and the sheep in batches of five. So we will be doing this every week. We were going to kill one of our original three cows but she is pregnant! She is so mean we had wanted to make her into hamburger. She is going to get another one year reprieve. Our bull only had access to her for about one week after she gave birth but it was enough to get her impregnated.
Today we started out the day with homemade cinnamon roles that raised overnight in the refrigerator along with some Kansas City bacon! It was so good we are having a repeat tomorrow morning. I am going to drown my cinnamon role in butter tomorrow though. It kept raining off and on throughout the morning so when I went outside I had my rain coat on. I had to run to town for diesel before getting a start. It was raining again after I got the disc hooked up to the tractor. If it gets too wet I cannot pull the disc. I remembered that a cheat for this is to weight the front of the tractor down, I found and put 350# of tractor weight into the front bucket to give the tractor more traction. I headed up to the upper pasture to disc with the rain coming down hard. I managed to get a few times around before going into field #2 and working out some of the water ruts in one area. I was cold as I only had a neck gator on and a long sleeve shirt under the thin raincoat. I need better clothes for this, I need to use my chest waders, a warm vest and some waterproof gloves! By the time I made it back to the house 3.5 hours later I was freezing cold and spent 45 minutes in the shower getting warm. We got 0.12” of rain by 1700 today and have gotten 15.49” of rain this year so far.
I like the rain as it softens up the ground but too much and I cannot work the fields. Such a gamble, I had no idea how much luck was involved in farming. Our Morris chair hinges came today. Some old geezer makes them, so now I will be buying a couple of pieces of oak so I can take apart the chair back, make a new rail and reglue the entire back.
It’s that time, time to go back to work, vacation is over! By work, I mean the paying job, the stuff done around the farm was for rest and relaxation. I spent the day before we left for the coast discing the field down by my in-law’s house. I want to plant it in grass this fall but I need it ready for seed. It is still too dry to plant but if we don’t get rain soon, I will have to put the seed in the ground anyways. Mr Professional came out over the weekend and changed the oil in the tractor. It is all ready for winter. The tractor now has just barely over 1200 hours on it.
I went out today and used the arena groomer to knock down all the big dirt clots and drag all the extra dead grass out of the field. It took about three hours to get it smoothed out and ready for seed. I even picked up any scrap metal, rocks and loose old hay strings. Once that was done I swapped out the arena groomer for the box blade. I have a real hankering to get the field number 2 cleaned up and move some of the dirt out of the damp area so I can get a usable grass field planted. I moved the dirt out out of the middle of the area and am using it to fill in all the washboard flooding damage in the field. I got about 25% done today in four hours. I think I can get the rest of it done in about 12-15 more hours with my mistress on the job. If I have some leftover time on the backhoe I need to rent at the end of the month I could get it done faster. The backhoe is needed to finishing fixing the berm and creating a new one in the middle of the field. If it does flood I only want it to wash out into small portions of the fields, not the entire thing!
I saw several rooster pheasants today and two large covey of quail. The quail are incredibly passive, they fly off just enough to get away from you but still within 40 feet of you. The sheep are looking mighty fat and this week we start hauling the cows in for slaughter. We are only doing a couple at a time so we will be spacing them out and letting the customers know when their cow is ready. I will probably be helping Scott with his two sheep next month after it cools off a little. I did not get a deer tag this year so I will not be hunting for venison on the place, our nephew is coming out to see if he can shoot one of the two bucks we have on the property. So far I don’t think he has been successful. I still need to finish the barn lot fence…