Staycation 88% completed

This week the weather has improved dramatically so the priorities have had to change a little. I wanted to get projects done that set up Mr Professional so he can come out and work alone when I am back to work. So lots of organizing, sorting and cleaning up has been happening. On Wednesday morning we sorted the sheep and pulled off the rest of the lambs. Not sure why I didn’t think of that the first time, but problem solved. We moved all the lambs but three over into the orchard pasture to hang out. I thought we only had three in with the ewes, we spotted a fourth one that evening when we were feeding, a little boy snuck past, he must have been hidden in a mass of ewes. The grass in that pasture is over eight inches tall and needs something to start eating it down so I don’t have to mow it. We want the babies close as they have a tendency to disappear due to predators. We let Zeke, our old border collie push the lambs through the yard into the orchard, he was very happy. All he did was walk up to them and lay down. He has been laying around a lot lately and has started not eating all of his meals. We are going to switch him to soft food to attempt to encourage him to eat. He is probably not going to make it through this year.

We went out to the machine shed and sorted through the piles of scrap wood we got a couple of years ago. It was leftovers we got for a steal and had it delivered right to the house which made it even a better deal. We are now starting to dig through and use the material for various projects around the house. But it was taking up space in the machine shed and we are going to make the old chicken coop the storage area. So we sorted out the junk. Sorted out the stuff we would use once for concrete forms, which are now stored outside the chicken coop and tarped, under the eaves, so we can have easy access to it when needed. We even kept the subflooring sheets and oak plywood sheets separately in the chicken coop so we can use them for the old house. The old bathroom is going to be Annmarie’s office storage room and it will get oak plywood flooring. The floors are slanted and will need to be leveled. The old kitchen, soon to be freezer room, will need to get leveled also but it will just be 3/4” subflooring and 1/2” plywood sheeting on it. We will just be sanding down the original floor like we did in our upstairs rooms in the house.

I took the time to brush the horse. She is shedding something fierce and without another horse buddy to help her groom she needs some assistance. I have brushed her twice this vacation and Sarah brushed out the dogs when she was home so everyone looks pretty good. We came into the house and took out the old TV stand. It is very heavy but Annmarie reminded us we have the shoulder furniture movers so we found those and it made moving the stand an easy thing. I moved the new chest into its spot after cleaning the floor and doing some cord management stuff to organize the electrical mess. Annmarie wants us to use a piece of plastic channel to contain all of the TV cords to make it neater. When that comes we will install it, it does look a lot nicer with the cords contained.

Mr Professional got the side by side up and running in under five minutes. This is without the battery being plugged in. Adding that large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat was just what we needed to keep the thing going. A dead battery all the time is highly annoying.

The small stuff I ordered for the tractor came this week. The speed handle is installed! This should just come standard on every tractor, I am unsure why they don’t. There are a couple of tool racks that will hold a chain between them now mounted behind the seat on the roll bar. The chain is actually in one spot now not tied down to some random piece of the tractor. The quick hitch is now installed and I have filled the ballast box with horseshoes. So now the Kubota has pallet forks on the front and a ballast box on the back with several hundred pounds of steel in it. It feels a lot better when you are carrying something heavy on the front.

We let the new alpaca out of the orchard thinking that everyone seemed to be getting along. The old adage that fences make great neighbors is still true. By that afternoon Mad Max had the young brown one pinned to the ground and was screaming in his ear. I tried to holler at them to get them to stop but no go. I went over and encouraged him to get off of the baby and strained my right knee. He did not initially take the hint. The alpaca can be very stubborn or determined, depending on how you look at it. We watched them for a while and all seemed to be copacetic. The next morning when I went outside there was more fighting. I went out and chased away the offenders but I could only find the two new young white alpaca and only counted ten. Which meant that the young brown one was missing, but Mad Max was present but one of our other old brown alpaca was missing. I had to walk all the way down to the end of the driveway and found the poor little alpaca pinned to the ground and the older one on top grinding into him. I had to chase him off with my coffee cup as a tool, my knee still hurts so no kicking. When I got back to the now 12 alpaca I wanted to put the three babies back into the orchard with the lambs. But they kept walking away from me. So instead when I opened the gate the seven older ones bum rushed the open gate and went into the orchard. So now the new animals are outside the fence and the old grumpy men are stuck in the orchard. Mad Max is now with the young ones but he has not been any trouble since the split. So now Annmarie asked me if I verified the gender on all three new alpaca. I did not do that. So now we need to verify that we did not end up with a female as we really do not want any cria.

On Thursday we got the side by side ready to spray. I put the first 30 gallons of round up through just spraying our road and driveway down. The only bad part about roundup is it takes at least a week before you can tell something was sprayed and two weeks for it to totally die. We cleaned out the tank and Mr Professional sprayed field #5 & 5A with 2-4-D & Milestone to kill the broadleafs, the thistles are already starting to spread. Unfortunately, the flood from two years ago changed the direction of the creek and one of the tall banks is seriously undercut. We have probably already lost eight feet of hillside and may lose another eight feet. If we lose that total 16’ I will have to move the fence. There is a very large curve in the creek now. We finished cleaning up and tossing everything onto the burn pile. I will need to get that burned again in the next month.

The big push now will be to get the spray onto all of the hay fields. We need to do this as soon as possible and then once that is done we can start fixing the fence down by four corners. As soon as that fence is done then it will be repairs on the hay baler and getting all the tractors tuned up and oil changed so everything is ready for haying season. We will be getting the barns cleaned out also so we have a place to put the new good hay.

Staycation 76% completed

We spent most of Monday getting the black walnut tree cut up into boards and a mantle. I am not yet sure what to do with the mantle but if you know someone who needs a 9 foot long, 12×20” piece of black walnut with one live edge still attached let me know. I have it stashed in the machine shed under a tarp to keep it clean. The rest of the lumber we took out to the now clean old chicken coop, stacked and stickered it, then banded it all together to help keep it flat while it dries out the last little bit. The tree had been dead for a few years already so it should not take several years. The wife and I discussed the barn lot crossing and the cost of a new culvert. It was going to be $1800-2000 for a new 3 or 4 foot diameter culvert. Annmarie pointed out that I could just make a buttresses on each side and deck the gap with railroad ties and anything would be able to drive over it. So the new plan is to make two concrete U shaped ends and then bridge the gap with railroad ties. This will be easier than trying to purchase new culvert and will have the added benefit of creating a lot of space for water should it try and flood again in our lifetime.

Mr Professional and I put up clear plastic on one of the wall openings in the back of the old chicken coop. We did this so the light could still come in. The front part of the coop is about 33 feet long so we sheeted it in plastic and then put up OSB board to sandwich the plastic between the board and the chicken wire already stretched across the windows. We sealed up two different animal access points and now nothing can get into the old chicken coop but mice. I will need to put out a lot of poison now to prevent the mice from taking up residence. One of the cats had been keeping the room clear of mice, we knew this because there was some untouched grass seed in the building. After we got the windows covered we cleaned up and were ready to move the stuff from the old house out to the chicken coop for storage purposes.

Today, before Mr Professional came out I went upstairs and stained the second side of the bathroom door. I will seal it tomorrow and then it will be ready to install. Mr Professional had told me that one of the lambs was limping last night when we fed. So this morning I went out and cut a short length of PVC pipe, I then split it in half lengthwise. Once I had it split I filed down all of the edges to make them rounded and took a roll of coban and the splint out to the barn with me when I went to let everyone out. I managed to find a boy lamb who was limping, caught him and after everyone left the barn I was able to set him on his butt and wrap up this leg and splint it with the coban and PVC. It worked well, the only real problem was it took the lamb some time to get used to it and I found another boy lamb that was limping and had a floppy front leg. So now I will need to make another splint in the morning and splint the second lamb’s leg. I have no idea where the idiots are injuring themselves.

So Mr Professional and I sat down to discuss the new plan, we calculated how much rebar we would need and we picked it up today from the scrap yard. This is the new engineer approved plan. I am going to borrow a dump trailer and pickup the 3/4minus and concrete sand myself and take it right to the job site and dump it all within arms reach of where we need it. We can get power to the bridge with three extension cords and will mix it all right there. I just need to get the Portland Cement and lime now. It needs to warm up quite a bit so the water level will drop some before we get started.

We started cleaning out the old house to get ready for the office build. This is a perfect project to work on due to the frequent rain. It took two full 16’ flat bed trips to empty the two rooms out! There was quite a bit of unused wood stored in the old house. I am thinking about moving all of the unused wood from the machine shed into the old chicken coop so that all of the wood is in one spot. We are going to tear out the entire inner wall so I can run all new electrical wire quickly and easily using the least amount of wire. Luckily, I have quite a bit of 12 g wire leftover from wiring our house so I think I already have what I need. I also have a variety of switches and outlets, all different colors and types but I am determined to use up what I have on hand before I get any new supplies.

We used the tractor to move the trailer and it is a lot easier to maneuver the trailer. We got the first load into the old chicken coop but by yesterday evening we did not want to unload the trailer so we just tossed a tarp over it and started to work on covering up the access hole in the side of the building. This hole has been uncovered since we moved here and Annmarie has wanted it covered forever. We also slapped a couple of pieces of wood at the peak and even added an extra piece as a woodpecker has decided to put a hole in the building so it can nest in the attic. The freezer room is just going to get the floor leveled and power installed for now. It is outside the office area we are building for Annmarie and is in my section of the building. The second section will be done at a later date, most likely after we get the inside bathroom remodeled. Once the walls are stripped I will get two doors ordered and three windows. But the wiring can be done while that stuff is getting ordered and shipped.

Staycation 70% complete

Well the weekend is over and I did get some stuff done. It feels like I am not getting anything done sometimes but that really isn’t the case and I do know that. There is so much to do! I took it pretty easy on Saturday. I stained the upstairs bathroom door. I do need to get that done! This was the single reason for taking some time off, so it does need to get completed. I transplanted some of my house plants I had rooted from starts and they were ready for the soil. I hit the $1 store, now $1.25 store, and cleaned out their four inch pots. So I now have 24 new pots for houseplants. I like to give the plants out at Christmas as gifts to my staff but it takes me all year to get the plants ready. I am going to start African Violets next. I want to get about ten more plants going. I have several of the crawling cactus plants growing. I may even try a Christmas cactus replication. I have never tried to get a start going from one before.

Sarah had posted the old WW2 dog tag maker we had for sale online. Our only taker was a gentleman from the Air Museum in Pendleton. They want to recondition it and use it at their museum to make dog tags for kids. After they left I talked with Annmarie and we just donated it to the museum. On Sunday two old guys came out to pick it up. I had sworn I would not move it after wrestling it up to the second story many years ago. It was easier to get down than up and I used the tractor to lift it into the back of their pickup. So it now has a new home and the bedroom has some unused wall space!

I went out Saturday and started working on filling in the culvert in field #4b. I was able to get one side of the culvert done enough I could drive up to the top and dump soil over to the other side. As I was was stealing soil it dawned on me that I should turn this flat spot into a hay storage area! The cows will be fed up here and the hay is easier to feed if it is right there. So we will be working on this also. It just needs a simple fence to keep the cows away from the hay.

I had my lifelong dreams crushed over the weekend. I have wanted peacocks for ever since we moved out to the farm. The reason we have not gotten them is the noise but I was hopeful that I could eventually overcome this obstacle. When I went to get the alpaca there were a bunch of peacocks. I spotted 8 males and they were amazing! The alpaca owners lived right next to this spot. I happen to mention how amazing they were. It turns out they are feral and have been loose for over 50 years. They are incredibly destructive! I had no idea. After hearing many horror stories I will not be getting peacocks. A lifelong goal dropped.

On Sunday, I spent even more time on the tractor moving dirt. I even went up the road to pick rocks and dump off soil. There is one spot in the dirt road that slants severely to the downhill side and this winter when it was wet the tractor almost slid off the road several times. I took dirt down to try and level off the road some. I was able to move it a few more inches level than it was but I need about another ten inches to truly make it safe! This meant I had to load rocks into the bucket to take back to the culvert. I need to line the entrance and exit with rocks to help harden it and to keep the dirt in place. I managed to get about 20% completed and will need to keep dragging rocks back. I need a little more dirt on the far side but it can now be driven over by a vehicle and trailer. Once it all settles down I will sprinkle it with some gravel in late summer.

I did go inside and measure the bathroom closet openings and now have dimensions for the frames. I have one frame all cut and sanded. I just need to assemble it now. We are going to cover the frames with tapestry a good friend of ours left to us. The quail all over the farm now! We see them multiple times a day in our front yard and back yard. They are starting to break up into smaller groups so hopefully they will start laying eggs soon.

Staycation 47% completed

I keep thinking I am not getting things done but the blog helps keep me on track, if nothing else I can see that things are actually getting done. First thing Thursday morning I hung the corner shelf I made earlier in the week. The brackets came with a cute little 4” level to make sure you hung the shelf correctly. That afternoon the new cables and cable protectors arrived and Sarah and I put the router up onto the shelf. The 90 degree data cable ends really helped the cable stay next to the wall. I had to put an extension cord up to the shelf and plug in the two things behind the router. I was afraid you could tell but it is fairly invisible. This also gives us a better wifi signal throughout the house as the transmitter is higher up on the wall. There was only a small amount of disagreement. We basically agreed to disagree as neither one of us was listening or communicating effectively. This summer when the child and foreign child are home I am going to be spending a lot of time outside. I believe this is the wife’s number one complaint! Our old foreign exchange student, Monica is going to spend the entire summer with us. She is out of college for the summer and will be getting some experience on our farm with various animals. She also wants to learn how to drive a stick shift car. I offered to teach her how to drive the tractors but she was not as impressed by that as she had spent last year driving a skidsteer in a dairy setting. She has been working out so I see a lot of rock wall work getting done this summer.

When I went out to let everyone out of the barn I spent an hour digging straw and making sure we could open various gates. I used our new lightweight panels and built a run that would funnel the sheep to the back of the barn, so we could then run them through the chute and sort them. It was nice to be able to just put the panels on top of the straw and not have to dig down 18” to make the panels fit. Sarah and I were going to come out and sort off the female lambs so the new ram could not get them pregnant. The problem with this is no one likes being separated from their mother and they throw a continuously loud fit for several days over it. But it needs to happen as the sheep can technically get pregnant at 3 months old. We have never had any under 6 months old get pregnant but after 6 months all bets are off. We needed to count lambs also so we know how many we can sell.

I had spaghetti sauce on the stovetop. I use the melting burner to keep a really low heat on the pot. The problem with this is the sauce was not cooking down very fast and since Sarah and I were headed out to sort sheep at 1500 I figured I could turn up the burner and when we were done in an hour it would be ready for the final adjustment before dinner at 1700. I should have known better. It took us 135 minutes to get the sheep sorted! Annmarie came home around 1700 and found out that the sauce had just started to burn on the bottom of the pan. She was able to transfer it to a new pot, add a cup of water and finish it off. It tasted very good.

Sarah and I counted 42 lambs. It was supposed to be 20 boys, 22 girls, instead we had 21/21. I had to look at the online birth record and we tagged one of the girls with a boy tag because we ran out of tags, two of the boy lambs had managed to rip out their ear tags. One of the calmer ewes had a big bubble on the left side of her face. Sarah had sent me a picture so I brought a scalpel out to the barn. It is most likely an abscess and will need to be lanced and cleaned. The baby girls were crazy and kept ramming into the sorting chute and almost managed to jump back into the pen with the herd several times. We had to put up a second wall to keep them away. We pinned the face bulging ewe into the chute and it was an abscess, I cut about a 1.5” long horizontal incision and then squeezed out all the pus. It was really thick and would not have been easy for her body to get rid of it. I then cleaned it out and put some blue skin treatment on it. Unfortunately the skin treatment stains everything it touches and the ewe had started to swing her head around by this time and get it all over Sarah and I. Sarah got it the worst. We went inside to crow about our success and the first thing Annmarie asks us is why we did not sort off the boy lambs also? This way the ewes would get a break from making milk and burning so many calories and could maybe put on some weight. As there was no logical reason for us not doing this Sarah and I were kind of dumbstruck. Annmarie and I will be sorting them again next week.

On Thursday I was given the contact information for some people in the Hermiston area that were trying to sell their three alpaca who are only one year old. So I called them Friday morning and after morning chores I hooked up the stock trailer and went to Hermiston. I got all three intact boys, brothers, for $280. We now have 12 alpaca and will not be buying any more for years! They live 20 years and we will lose several in the next 1-2 years as they are just old.

The custom wood mill called Friday afternoon and said they wanted to cut the black walnut we had dropped off. I hooked up to the flat bed trailer, picked up Mr Professional and went to the custom cut mill. We talked about the pieces and how wide to cut them. The mill can only cut 24” piece but by the time you clear the edges we ended up with a solid 20” piece. The wood has so many colors! I was surprised at the variety of colors in it. In two hours they were only able to cut 1/3 pieces. On Monday I will go and get the other two pieces cut. We came out to the farm, cleared a spot in the old chicken coop, cleaned off all the sawdust and then unloaded it. Those nine foot pieces 3” thick weigh almost 200#. Once it was stacked we banded it together. It took a while to get the hang of the bander. I had never used one before. I did find a way to use the OSB sheets we have stacked out in the machine shed. We are going to put up black plastic to keep out moisture and light and hold it pinned up against the chicken wire to keep the rain out of the building. The building is about 1/3 full of wood. The OSB was $5/sheet as it was scrap so its perfect. I will keep each end open so the wind can still move through for circulation.

Staycation 29% completed

Well the Staycation is going well. I am getting stuff done but as always it seems to take forever. This is why men don’t like to finish stuff. The last 10% of a job takes up about 30% of the total time so it feels like you are just not getting stuff done! Take the door stripping for instance. I had to set up a work area where it is a temperature controlled environment. I had to then apply the first coat of stripper, wait about 16 hours then scrape it clean. I then had to reapply the stripper, wait for another 18 hours and then scrape it off, scrape all of the paint off with plastic scraper, brass brush and pickup all the goop off of the door. A pocket knife was required to clean the rounded edges and corners. I also had poor removal on the edges of the door so a pocket knife was utilized liberally to clean it up. I then used paper towels to get all of the gunk off the door then used mineral spirits to do the final cleanup on the door, wait another day for door to dry out. Now it is ready for some light stain and a coat of sealant. I have been staring at the door frame which of course has paint on it also. I am thinking about just taping and plastic and rags on ground then applying paint stripper. I have a paste so it should hold well but it is going to smell and be messy. Using the breeze porch I have windows open and we have the upstairs bathroom fan on for any little smell that gets inside the house. If I do the doorway it is going to smell, I do use the citrus based stuff and that has the least offensive smell. This requires a plan consult with the wife to see what she wants to do and what she will tolerate to get it. All of this takes time, I bet we have about $50 in supplies and about 7 hours into it. The problem is the doors are original to the farm so they are not getting replaced and they are solid wood five panel doors, with the current price of wood, building materials and old style door knobs I would bet all of it combined would cost about $1k/door. So I will be taking down each door one at a time and stripping them. I am not buying six new doors. Those doors will have no character! Annmarie will be making a plaque of the weird instructions that were written on the back of the door. We still don’t know what they are for or the exact location. I think it is for the septic tank location but the directions are pretty convoluted for something that is just off the front porch. Once I have the door reinstalled we will mount the handwritten instructions that she burns onto a wood plaque in the same location they were prior to the door reclamation.

I have been looking at the stuff that needs done outside but it just keeps raining every 2-3 days. We have had 42/100” of rain the last seven days and have had 1.2” for the month of March so far. So it never quite dries out enough to do anything. I did manage to drag the driveway yesterday for about 90 minutes. I was looking at it today, after multiple cars have driven on it and I will need to drag it again for about 120 minutes and I need to tear up the first 2-3” of it to really work the pot holes out and to get it so it will be smooth. What I really need is a roller! I laugh every time I say that, there is always something I don’t have but honestly, I have exactly what is minimally necessary to do everything I could want on the farm, the rest would be extraneous but helpful. The last big purchase was the snow plow. I realize it may seem extravagant but getting trapped in by the snow is no fun. Using the blade I could just make a run up and down the driveway 1-3 times during the storm and would not have to mess with huge mounds of snow at the end of the storm.

We have been working on a plan to find a home for the chest I bought. I violated the ”must have a spot first” rule we have on furniture buying. So we decided on moving out the TV stand/cabinet that we never really use except for the horizontal surface. To do that we needed a high shelf to put the router/wireless transmitter on. We decided that higher was better to increase our wireless signal inside the house. I have been working on a live edge shelf for that for two days. I am using the maple we have and of course it has a bow in the wood and it’s maple. I would rather work with black walnut. I of course do not have a planer set up and now I am going to convert the shop area into an office and not a wood shop so I have a 240V 16” planer and 8” 240V edger for sale. Neither of which have ever been ran because I never wired up a 240V plug. But that is a longer story and ends with ”I needed it”, all wives will understand. This caused me to use a hand sander, for a long time. I would have used my big hand belt sander but alas, I could not find it. I should probably add clean up the old house to my list of chores while on staycation but I need to get things done inside the house first. Again, anything is possible with 40 grit sandpaper and lots of time. I got so tired of sanding I actually removed the rust from a large hand planer and sharped the blade on a stone and used it to cut down some of the material. It was faster than the sander. The sanding took me about 4-5 hours to make one small shelf and my hand grip was so shot that I had a hard time holding a pen afterwards. Again, I am on staycation so time is an easy commodity to spend and fairly cheap at this point. Once the old TV stand is moved out to the old house, which really needs cleaned out now, then there will be a spot for the new trunk I just bought!!

I have yet to take a nap. I do feel that at least one nap is necessary for this to truly be called a staycation but I have not figured out how to squeeze it in yet. The dogs are annoying me as they keep running around the side of the house and eating the cat food. I need that fence installed in the side yard to stop them. But since the area is not yet finished I need to install a six foot gate so I can still drive the tractor through. The faucet near the tree we cut down has a leak so that means digging a 3×4 foot hole four feet deep and it will make a mess. I am waiting on warmer weather for that endeavor. I have seen some nice hammocks for sale on the internet and they do look very appealing. In five years you will be able to tie onto the power pole and the tree in our front yard, although as I type that out it doesn’t sound like that great of an idea.

We are down to 28 chickens, I just counted yesterday. I have had a few die so I do a recount every few months to make sure I can enter the correct numbers into my chicken spreadsheet. I will be doing the 2021 numbers soon. I need them for tax purposes. I am still selling eggs for $4/doz but the price of feed has not jumped yet. Once it jumps I will have to go to $5/doz to cover feed expenses. If I actually wanted to make any real money other than free eggs I would need to sell them for about $8/dozen, at that price I might make $1000/year.

I have been doing a few things, I mowed the lawn with the sheep! Our old alpaca got in on the action also, he wanted out a couple of hours later. The bunny is back or most likely is now active enough I can see him almost every day. So far the owls have not managed to eat it. We have a bald eagle that now flies by the house every few days. I have seen it repeatedly, it is no longer a one off. We get them occasionally as they are passing through but this one is staying somewhere. I have even started seeing the rock chucks out on the hillside. They have not been consistent enough to start trying to shoot them yet but as it warms up they will start spending more time outside. They are tearing up my rock cribs by digging underneath them so they need to go. The quail will hopefully multiply, they are running around everywhere and I think we managed to get at least 80 though the winter so hopefully that means we can have a few hundred this fall!