This word means a different thing on the farm. It has been quickly building up a snow pack over the last two days. I was working at the paying job and was still able to get down the driveway in my Ford Focus. The Focus is really the litmus test for when I need to get the tractor out and clean off the driveway. I managed to get out of the driveway Thursday morning at 0430. It was a close call but I managed to do it! This meant that I knew all of Friday would be a Snow Day. Removing snow all day long was the plan. Now this would have been easy to do if I had my six foot adjustable snow blade to go on the front of the new Kubota tractor. It can even adjust the angle so the snow just gets pushed to the outside of the road. This would be so cool but the blade, which I ordered in the spring is still not at the tractor dealer. The three point large bale spear lift just showed up two weeks ago. I expect the snow blade to show up this spring.
Sarah and I went out to feed this morning and Annmarie wanted us to convert one of the horse stalls into a shelter for the four sheep/rams/weathers. The wind is blowing in snow so she wanted us to stop that somehow and make a spot to feed the sheep that the horse cannot get into. So we raided the wood stash in the machine shed and went out to the barn and built something!
Sarah shoveled the walkway while I started in on the driveway. I fed the upper cows 8 bales of hay to supplement the big bale. I will do that all weekend with our grain hay that got too dry. The cows supplement with it and eat all of the grain out of it. I did offer to shovel the walkway if Sarah fed the cows, she did not think that was a fair trade.
I spent another three hours pushing snow around the house, the driveway and down to the gate so that Donna can walk down and let the alpaca into the lower cow pasture to eat hay. I then drove into town the two miles to dig out my mother next. I had pretty well bundled up but driving down the road at 20 mph in 12 F temperature is pretty cold. I was quite cold by the time I got back to the house. I went out to do the evening chores. I force pet the horse, its what I call it when I talk to her and pet on her before feeding her, she lays her ears back and lets me touch her! I opened up the outside barn door, fed the horse and then went inside and started feeding the sheep and getting the barn all locked up. I was coming back for the fourth bale of hay when I noticed all four boy sheep were in the hay room eating the grain I had set out for the momma sheep! I had forgotten about them and my habit is to leave the outer door open so the last little bit of sunlight lights up the interior. I had to keep shoving them out the door and even with the grain in my arms out of their reach as fast as I shove 1-2 out the door the other 2 jump back in. It took a while to get them all out and the door firmly latched shut. After a 30 minute shower I was finally warm again.
Every year around the winter holidays we have our annual water leak. This has gone on without fail for many years, so long in fact that it is now a tradition and we have come to expect it. It is the main reason I have insulated coveralls and has been the single greatest reason I have utilized my chest waders. Well we had not had any leaks, we still have great water pressure so we don’t even suspect a leak is brewing. A slow drop in water pressure means there is a leak but it usually takes about six months to surface so we know where to dig to fix it.
Last week Annmarie had noticed a puddle of water on the tile floor in the craft room downstairs. This room shares a wall with the kitchen and in that wall is the water riser for the freezer. We also have a drain line from the upstairs heating system condensate pump and there are siding issues on that side of the house. Any of these could be the source of the leak, but there was a plastic gallon container of deionized water a mere 12” away from the puddle. I theorized that the most obvious cause was the cause and the puddle came from the gallon of deionized water. Otherwise, I could potentially have to rip the murphy bed off of the wall and move it out of the room. It is a solid day to take it down and then reinstall it. This did not sound like a good plan on a mere hunch that the leak might be behind the murphy bed. We dried up the puddle and there was no water puddle the next morning, problem solved! There was still the issue that when I took the offending gallon to the sink and rolled it around and pressed on it, I could not seem to make it leak…
Move forward to Monday December 20, 2021, the wife calls me at work and states that there is now a huge puddle of water in the middle of the craft room floor. She is unsure where it is coming from but there is a definite leak. My biggest fear at this point is that it is the house siding as it had been raining with a solid wind behind it. I told her I would look at it when I got home.
When I got home the first thing I did was go to the offending room and look for a leak. Luckily for me it was fairly obvious that it was coming in through the ceiling. The paint was forming a bubble and the sheetrock tape was starting to swell.
I went out to the old house and brought in a big roll of plastic and draped all three big items in the room then cut open the ceiling. I had to tear out about a four foot hole to see where the leak was coming from and the sheetrock was wasted, too water logged to allow to dry out and reuse. Once I had a large enough hole I could see that it was not the condensate drain line. I would have put money on that being the cause of the leak. I went back upstairs into the closet where the sump pump was located and realized that the rubber drain hose had been knocked out of the drain hole and was draining out onto the floor and down onto the ceiling below. This must have happened this summer when they worked on the heating/cooling system. It had a refrigerant leak that they fixed, someone’s foot must have slid the pump 1.5” away, knocking the drain hose out of place. We never noticed. So I moved the black rubber drain hose so it was pinned in place better and cut two boards to go behind the sump pump so no one could accidentally move it with their foot. I set up a portable heater in the room and we have been drying out the sheetrock ever since.
I am hopeful we can get the ceiling repaired in the next couple of weeks. Meanwhile we have been feeding the quail. We really want the population to boom this next spring so we are trying to keep their numbers up this winter. The rock pile in the top right hand corner of the picture hides a 25# quail food block that they graze on when they make their daily rounds. The rocks keep the block from the view of our chickens, therefore the chickens don’t know there is an abundance of food within walking distance! The quail came by last night and I was able to count 94 quail in one covey. We are pretty sure there is a second large covey on the upper end of the property. They don’t get fed but we figure if we go into spring with 100 we should come out this next fall with a few hundred.
I am trying very hard to get this last fence finished before the weather stops us. Luckily, the weather just will not freeze. Friday, Mr Tex, Mr Rainman and Mr Professional all came out. We hit it hard and got the barn lot fence entirely rebuilt. We figured it had been ten years since I repaired it and it was in sad shape. The only reason the sheep had not been getting out of it and out into the wheat field to feast is that they are all pregnant, well fed and currently lazy. They will no longer be able to get out of the barn lot through the fence. We have a new gate installed in the barn lot out into the new alleyway. We also got the road gate hung going into the alley way. Mr Professional and I worked on getting T-posts pressed into the ground. This was not easy and the wind was blowing. I am deaf, he is deaf, the wind was blowing and the tractor was running. There was a lot of yelling and hand signals for hours on end.
Saturday, Mr Rainman and Mr Tex came out to continue fencing. The real problem is we have a wind advisory going all day for high winds. I dressed warmer on Saturday as the wind cut through my coat on Friday and I was cold most of the day. Mr Rainman and I continued to install T-posts while Mr Tex worked on getting the woven wire installed. The real problem Saturday was the constant strong wind, the wind was such that it blew all dust directly into my face. Luckily, I was wearing my new wraparound safety glasses so I was not getting dust in my eyes, just in my face. We spent five hours putting T-posts into the ground. I knew if we could get it done then there was no stopping the fence progress. All of the steps that require us to dig into the dirt would be completed. The rest can be done in freezing weather. At one point, Mr Rainman warned me that if I started to feel moisture falling on me it was from his snotty nose. This was not the most reassuring thought but it was true! The average wind speed for the day was 20 MPH with the highest gust at 55 MPH per our weather station. We quit early as soon as we had all the T-posts into the ground!
Sunday, I opted to start at 0800. It was raining when we started and in no time it started to snow, big wet heavy flakes. It was miserable on my hands, soaking wet leather gloves are no fun and eventually your hands get so cold that they get numb! Mr Rainman worked on getting clips installed on the woven wire that got put up yesterday and Mr Tex and I worked on installing the other H braces. We got three H braces completed and cut the cross pieces cut for the last two. The Kubota tractor almost slid off the road due to the mud and slant in the road, our hands felt like popsicles and we just decided by consensus that this was not going to happen. Christmas is just around the corner so between activities and holidays it will be January before we get at the fence again. I think three more solid days on the fence with three people to get it done. We got 3/10” of rain this morning.
No new baby lambs since mid week. It looks like the ram had to take another breather and rested up before he started working again.
We have five creches, jugs per wife, for newborns setup in the barn. One is larger than the others so we stuff multiple day old mommas and babies in it to free up the individual jugs. Twice this week I have had to go out after work and tag and band babies to release them into the momma/baby large pen. There was simply no room at the inn to keep them until the weekend. Now when there is only one momma and a set of twins in a single jug it is relatively simple to tag and band and send a text to Annmarie with momma number, number and gender of baby(s) and their tag numbers. This is infinitely more complex when you stuff four mommas and four sets of twins into one large jug and you want to assign the correct babies to the correct mothers. I had to just sit down on the barn floor in the bedding and watch the sheep to see who belonged to whom. The easiest way is to wait for them to nurse. The mommas don’t like milk stealers and will head butt any strays to keep them away. This worked for the first two pairs but the second pairs I finally had to catch babies and just hold onto them until they bleated then turn them loose in hopes that they would run to mom. It took about thirty minutes to get them all tagged and banded. I even managed to get more baby sheep poop all over my Carhart overalls. As soon as we are done lambing it will be time to wash the overalls. They are getting all kinds of interesting substances on them.
The babies are so curious that if you just sit down on the floor and stay quiet and they will come over and start sniffing you and playing around you. This is highly entertaining and very therapeutic. It is very hard to be sad or frustrated when baby lambs are leaping around you and coming over to sniff your boots and hands. I highly recommend this course of treatment. Especially when an entire section of the barn is nothing but lambs cavorting and running around like miniature mobs.
It has been a long weekend. It is officially December now and I am still building fence on the property. The weather is amazing and scary. In all reality everything should be frozen and I should not be building any more fence for 2021. Since the weather is cooperating and we set a record high last week, I am going to continue to fence. Mr Tex & Mr Rainman came out on Friday and worked on H bracing the posts we already had in the ground. This was because it was below freezing and I wanted to give the ground some time to warm up before we started to attempt to drill more holes in the ground. I went to town to buy some more railroad ties, T posts, woven wire and two gates. I got the entire flat bed trailer loaded down with fencing materials. I made it home just after they finished the H braces and we unloaded the trailer. Mr Rainman and I finished the day by distributing all the fencing supplies along the length of the future fence. We calculated that at the current material prices it would cost about $10k/mile of fence. It has definitely gone up in price since prior to Covid.
The sheep are trying to have their babies. They are not being very fast at delivering. We only had five babies this week, four mommas delivered, one set of twins and the rest singles. Today made our production percentage jump as we had two sets of twins! I went out and rearranged the barn on Saturday with Mr Professional. We set up five pens on the far end of the barn and created a larger momma/baby area. I did mess up and leave the adjoining gate open and spent an extra thirty minutes sorting those sheep that had given birth from those that had not. I missed one last night and caught it this morning! Tip, shut all the gates all the time. We need to order three more long aluminum panels. This will let us form five pens with a pathway to the gate. The plan for next year is to just setup all five pens before lambing season and then they will be ready, including the one under the stairs this will give us six creche.
17 of 34 ewes have given birth, 50% completed
Lambs born alive 27 birth rate 159%
Stillborn lambs 0
Lambs rejected 0
Lambs died before 2 weeks 0
Lambs bummered not rejected 0
Flock productivity 159%
Singles 8 of 17, 47%
Twins 8 of 17, 47%
Triplets 1 of 17, 6%
Mr Professional came out on Saturday, we did the barn rearrangement then went onto installing the gate automatic closer. This is for the gate leading into our yard from the cars. We read the instructions carefully and realized we needed to fabricate an extension piece. After digging around in the scrap metal file and then bending some metal, we attempted to install it in four different configurations with marginal success. The automatic closer kept stopping the gate from fully opening. Annmarie came home and suggested we install it on the door over by the trash can enclosure as the propane person always leaves it open. We did and it went right on without any difficulties. We gave up and went and installed the two metal gates on the front porch. They just need some type of stopper so the auto closer does not tweak the doors. We are working on finding something that will work then I can adjust the auto closer appropriately.
Mr Tex came out on Sunday and we focused on drilling holes in the ground. We now have all of the holes in the ground necessary to complete the fence! The only real problem is we still have six posts to set in gravel, which can be done after ground freezes, but we have NO T-posts installed yet. I need about 5-6 hours of thawed out ground to install the 110 T-posts necessary. Once the T-posts are installed then nothing can stop us, not even snow. We did have to move a fence that was under the power lines back away from the road about three feet at its narrowest point. It was just going to be too tight of a fit when hauling the trailer back and forth. The nice thing is there will be no culvert to cross so no worry about someone dumping the trailer off into the ditch. I do need to buy a new auger point and teeth for the post hole auger. It is getting pretty dull.