Escape artists

I had a plan today, it was going to be hay day. Well honestly, that was my second plan, my first plan was supposed to be cow day. Instead it turned into Fence day as my third plan. My first plan was good but when I woke up this morning there was going to be change because I could not do cows. I was way too sore to be working the cows. So since I was not going to be doing cows then my second plan was going into effect, Hay day. I need to move the old bales out of the machine shed and store them over by the grain bins. But to keep the alpaca off of them I need to move the round horse corral out to use as a fence. Then I need to clean out the hay area and move some plywood out of the way. But just as I was leaving the house Mr Rainman tells me that a calf is out again. We had one get out earlier in the week and I found a large hole in the fence down by four corners. So knowing there is a problem and believing that it has repeated itself we went to the third plan which was Fencing day.

Mr Professional was going to come out later and work on the porch railing a little later. Mr Rainman loaded up the bucket on the new tractor, “Companion” with fencing tools. He spotted the bunny! We had not seen it in over a week. We went down to four corners and proceeded to fix the hole in the fence. We ended up cutting all of the willow trees back and then I crossed the fence and cut them back about 6 feet back from the fence. We tightened the entire fence and then went in and hammered in new staples into the wooden stays and added the broken T-clips back onto the fence. It looked like a brand new fence. Mr Rainman was mistaken, the calf was not out of the outer fence enclosure, he just was not inside the fence with his momma. He was going to have to walk down to the open gate to get past the fence.

We then drove up to the top of the hill and then went down to the schoolhouse field to patch the woven fence that the cow jumped through last year. We ended up retightening the entire thing and pulling the top two wires together to remove several inches of slack from the fence. I decided that the only way to stop this from happening again was to add in T posts. I think this was the plan two years ago but I thought the all wooden fence would be aesthetically pleasing and the cows would respect it for this reason, I was wrong. We unloaded all the tools there since we were going to be coming back. We stopped at the ditch and reopened the ditch to flood irrigate the schoolhouse pasture. I was able to dig down and get it running. We then went back to the house, small stop to fill the tractor bucket with large rocks as we were going to come off of the rocky hillside to get T-posts anyways. We did not want to move an empty tractor. The rocks were moved to the front yard for the rock wall that needs to be completed. We grabbed more supplies and went back, installed the T-posts and then had to install the clips onto the posts. This seems like an easy job. If you have never applied fencing clips before you would think its easy and you would be wrong. Mr Rainman was given a tutorial and cut loose. In the time it took him to complete four posts I had 17 posts done! He ended up getting terminated from that task and went back to load up the tractor with tools. We got all of the obvious fence corrected. The top CRP fence really needs to be repaired and rebuilt.

Alpaca shearing did occur

The alpaca were supposed to be easy. They are always supposed to be easy but when one practices a skill for one day a year before letting it lapse for another 364 days it is hard to become super proficient. On top of this the alpaca are the definition of passive aggressive. We had three just hit the dirt and refuse to move. They would not get up and Mr Rainman and I had to just lift them up and carry them to the shearing table. It is incredibly annoying and the longer the day went on the less umph I had to lift them.

The new porcelain cutting blades worked great! I was able to get them all adjusted and they did not get as hot as the metal ones. So you end up with porcelain blade on top and a stainless steel blade on the bottom. The bottom blade doesn’t move, the porcelain cutting blade does all the dirty work. The alpaca are filthy. They keep rolling around in the weeds and dirt. We think if we shear them earlier in the year we can avoid a large portion of the dirt and weeds. There is no telling unless we try, so I will be attempting to make time for them right after we hay in the spring.

We only kept the “saddle” portion this year and tossed the rest in trash bags. Annmarie had us save the seconds and legs and neck hair in those bags and she has some plan for them. We hung them up in the tack room from hooks in hopes that the mice could not get at them. The finished keeper hair we put in individual gunny sacks with the picture of the donating alpaca. They got put into two trunks until I can get the alpaca fiber tumbler built. It will go onto my cement mixer, I will remove the bucket and then attach the fiber tumbler so we can tumble fibers while using a leaf blower to clean out the fiber from the sheared hair.

We were all getting tired and I just wanted to finish and get it over. We had two alpaca left but they would not come in yet just as we were exiting the barn they volunteered to be caught. This necessitated us just hunkering down and getting it done. The very last alpaca decided after we had the halter on that he was not having any of it. He reared up full height on his back legs and body slammed Sarah into the barn wall. He hit her from the side mostly due to some inattention on her part. She ended up on the ground but will only have a few bruises and we managed to get the last alpaca sheared.

Mr Professional has been working on the porch off and on all week. The large wooden beams got painted with Kilz and then all of the metal wraps had to be recut and fitted to go over the new new deck. Then the railing had to be installed. This is not as easy as watching a YouTube video as the porch is not exactly perfectly level or square. He worked on it Saturday while we went out and sheared the alpaca.

Mr Rainman went down to the Mother-in-laws and put blocks under the new shed and piled gravel up so that the riding lawn mower can be driven into it. I may have to make a little wooden ramp that can be moved into place so the four inch tall threshold can be surmounted.

We are on the lookout for some more cheap alpaca. I am thinking this fall when no one can get hay, people will be offloading all kinds of animals.

Front porch actually looks like a porch!

Well, I think the porch might actually get done despite everything. Mr Rainman, Mr Professional and I spent all of Friday working on getting the outside edge boards cut and installed. This did not go smoothly or well. Mr Rainman also worked on laying in some gravel footings under the fascia boards so we can start installing block to fill the gap. We don’t want the dogs crawling under the porch and digging holes. Honestly, we don’t want any animal doing this so the only way to stop this is to limit access. We were able to find blocks fairly reasonably at the end of the outdoor yard season so it was $600 for block.

We took off all of the sheet metal around the pillars and raised up the wooden casing. The pillars will need to be painted with Kilz before we reinstall the sheet metal. We had to start counting boards, it turned out that I did not order enough edging. So then we had to start to figure out how to use the pieces as efficiently as possible to get the job done. We went to a double measure rule and finally after I hollered and ranted for a wrong cut then started doing the cutting myself and promptly screwed it up again we went to a two person independent measure on space then board before anyone could cut anything. This managed to stop the mistakes but we only managed to get the outside boards installed all day. We had to take up the wow in the front using a string line and it just went on and on. It was so frustrating and so necessary to make it look good.

Saturday Mr Rainman and Mr Professional laid out all of the decking and got it cut to fit the entire porch. Yep, I did not order enough decking either. Now in my defense we used the TREX deck estimator tool online. But I did not insert exact measurements and the calculator does not add 10%. You must add 10%, because there will be mistakes. I now have to order three 16’ boards, it should take a couple of weeks for them to get here.

I worked on getting power from under the house to under the deck. I had to make another trip to town to get a waterproof box. When I crawled under the house I found a bunch of loose wires I had not nailed up. I think I had plans for that but they got waylaid and no one voluntarily crawls under the house. I spent some time nailing up all of the electrical wires and then nailed up the new wire to the deck. I had 7 breakers off to make sure that I did not have to crawl back out. Once I get the right breaker figured out I will mark the panel so we know exactly what breaker controls the front porch. After talking to Annmarie I am going to install two separate outlets on the porch, one on the outside far edge by the crawl space entrance and the other on one of the pillars so you can charge your electrical device while sitting on the porch. We needed power for the lights that will be installed on the stairs. We are getting old and need to be able to see the stairs.

Mr Rainman had to leave early to go home and do some dog catching. Mr Professional pulled Mr I Need a Belt Bad from cutting thistles in the orchard to helping him install decking then install insulation against the house. I finished up the insulation after he left and we cleaned up. On Sunday Mr Professional finished the entire deck install. I had hung some of the cross piece substructures too low so he had to cut and lower some of the boards to make the deck solid. It looks and feels great!

Alpaca day!

I am a week behind, as I was too tired to post again. I always wonder if I should just skip it and ignore the day, but it really did happen and it shows how things are not always under your control so I decided to just finish it before starting this week’s post.

Mr Rainman came out on a Friday so we could get the alpaca sheared. This takes a full day and I had sent in all of the blades to be sharpened so we should have been ready. We moved all of the alpaca into the barn lot and then got the shearing table all setup. Power moved out to the barn and then Annmarie came out. She was busy in the house. Of course the easiest alpaca to catch was Snoop. He is the most laid back and tame of the bunch, they all like women better than men as my mother-in-law hand feeds them treats every day. The wife and daughter do it occasionally also, I do it once to twice a year, I don’t count. We got him in next to the table and up onto it and stretched out and tied down. We took 30 minutes to trim his feet till they were all pretty and functional, no curled toes. It was time to shear, well I thought I had ordered ceramic cutting blades but I only had metal ones. I prefer the ceramic ones as they last longer and seem to work better for me. This was a huge understatement. I could not get the damn shearing blades to adjust correctly. I tried everything. The blades were new and sharpened and I could not get them to cut. I managed to get the saddle portion off of Snoop but that was it. I promptly ordered the ceramic blades and will be using them when they come. I had the blades so tight that the heat was too much. When i backed off the tension I could not get them to cut. It was weird. My once a year, three years running experience does not exactly make me an expert.

We gave up and turned them loose and went back to the front porch. We had to install stay boards between every step as the pressure treated boards were warping on their own. It has been crazy doing the porch as all of the new lumber has not what I would call great quality. It has warped within 2-3 weeks after getting unbanded, every single piece! So we installed and straightened as best we could to keep the boards from shifting more. The TREX doesn’t have any structural strength so the boards need to stay in place and the TREX can just sit on top and look pretty.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad spent the day cleaning out the chicken coop. It took him two days and it had not been done in 2 years. Covid killed my activity level and it just did not get done. He disturbed the chickens enough that they spent two days hollering at him for invading their space. We had to discuss attention to detail items a few times, typical of a teenager.

Annmarie and I are seeing quail everywhere! If the baby quail survive our population should increase by a factor of 5-8. It will be amazing, I am hoping for at least a couple of hundred quail on the farm after this year. It is official we do actually have two rabbits on the place. This may lead to more rabbits, we will see. In the past this has just led to the owls eating rabbit.