Honey ahoy!

This week was amazing! Some things got done that really needed it and it was a banner week. I was able to arrange for the septic tank to be pumped at the same time as the safe cracker came out to break into our old Victor safe. We wanted to use the safe but needed the combination to do it. The septic tank truck arrived first and after I briefed him on the plan to go into the barn lot and across the spring the safecracker showed up. I had him go in and start in on the safe. He had to wade through the alpaca mob to get to the gate. They were in rare form and all bum rushed him as he got out of the car. I got the septic truck into the barn lot and once he saw the spring crossing he said nope, he thought he had enough hose to pump it from the front gate. So we went back out and he he backed up to the gate and started hauling hose. It took four sections of hose to reach the septic tank and you could see the outline of the tank in the dead grass. He started digging and was right over the lid, as soon as he pulled the lid I realized we were lucky! We most likely could not have made it to the end of the year without having problems or destroying our drainage field. When the main drain pipe was replaced, just before we arrived the plumber took it all the way to the septic tank! This was very nice. It is a 1000 gallon concrete tank and he got it all pumped out and then I sent him down to my mother-in-law’s to pump her tank, we think it had never been pumped but were not sure. It was worse than ours but again, it had not caused problems or ran out into the drainage field.

I had to go in the house for the big reveal after the safecracker got the safe open. It was empty except for a 1974 penny. So obviously the safe had been open until then. The safe guy not only opened the safe but he serviced the lock and ended up sanding a couple of edges of the door to get it work correctly. The door had sagged a little. The tolerances are so close that he did not have to remove much. I then had to prove that I could open the safe. This turned out to be a little more complicated than I thought. The safe has four numbers and the route to get there is very specific and cannot be deviated and is not intuitive. As far as we are concerned this is just one more barrier to getting into the thing. We have been practicing ever since then to get used to opening the thing. That evening I took the little lock box and cleaned off all the rust and spray painted the outside. I reassembled the shelves and put it back in its spot, you don’t see any of th new paint job but it was pretty rusty on the outside before I did all of that. We are going to get a new rug for the bottom then I will move all of our paperwork over into the old safe. I think I need to get about 4-5 folders to sort the paperwork better. Currently it is just thrown into a pile that attacks you whenever the safe is opened. This way legal documents can stay in one place. No one will get my social security paper card, they will just steal it off the internet.

I had to work late and Annmarie woke me up via phone to say there was a coyote out on the hillside and to bring a long gun. I thought about just going out in my slippers and underwear but it has been getting cool at night and I wasn’t sure how far up the creek she was, so I got dressed first. As I was slogging my way up to field #3 I spotted the coyote up on the bluff but then I spotted an elk butt. By the time I got up to where I could shoot the coyote had vanished but I got to see a three point bull elk with four cows and four calves going up the hillside and over the hill. It is way too early for them to be down this low. I suspect this is where the calf came from last weekend. The farm always surprises us.

We have been working on feeding our bees and figuring out how to get them through the winter and what we need to do to get more flowers next spring for them to eat on. Both of our supers are full, the top one with honey and the bottom with bees. Annmarie checks every few weeks and she finds the queen bee every time. I avoid the bees but did go out and feed them a pollen pack a couple of weeks ago, they were very calm and happy to see more food. So while talking to Annmarie yesterday I convinced her that we should try out our honey this year. Since we’re going to feed them through the winter we can take out one frame of honey was my premise. After a little bit of discussion she agreed, the only problem was she had just gone into the hive 30 minutes prior to our discussion and installed mite treatment. So she ran out and pulled one super and just hung it on the side of the hive, we have little metal poles for this. We decided that we would wait till night time for it to cool off before retrieving the frame.

I went out and spent a few hours on the tractor digging a diversion ditch for the next flood and then we went to town for dinner. We got back after dark and she went out and retrieved the frame. At the back door she hollered for me to come remove the bees. I grabbed a paint brush and brushed off about eight bees, we both got inside and shut the back door. I spotted two bees in the laundry room. Annmarie went to the kitchen and then started hollering for me as I had missed some bees. On the way to the kitchen I got stung on the right thigh! I never saw the bugger coming, never knew it was there. It hurts, it had been a while since I was stung by a honey bee. I now changed tactics, the first shot had been fired and my leg hurt! I grabbed the fly swatter and popped three bees in the kitchen and two more in the laundry room then suddenly it felt like I had multiple bees inside the leg of my pants. I dropped my drawers in the kitchen to my ankles hollering about more bees when the puppy rang the bell to go outside. So I shuffled over to the door with my pants around my ankles to let the puppy out. I managed to find the actually stinger in my leg and remove it and my leg started to instantly feel better. It still hurt. I grabbed the large sheet cake pan and put the frame in it and then covered it with Saran Wrap. I killed four more bees under the plastic. So the bees had to sacrifice nine workers for us to have one frame of honey. Annmarie also said that the frame had a lot more honey in it when she pulled it out. The bees had stolen a bunch of honey from the frame. We watched more videos last night and saw that we need a storage container to prevent that and that we should always collect on a warm sunny day. I had to kill one more honeybee this morning in the kitchen! The goal this year was to learn. I almost never touch the hive, I have been stung. Annmarie futzes with the hive all the time and has never been stung. I am unsure what I am learning.


The last couple of weeks have been hectic. I have been trying to finish up little projects all over the place. I have finally managed to get the last of the kitchen doors installed! I had to cut down another one to get them to fit correctly. We will be doing some touch up painting in place now but honestly the new color is so much nicer than the yellow. It really brings the countertop and backsplash together in a way that the yellow did not. I do not see us doing that again for at least another 20 years to allow us time to forget how awful it was the first time.

I went out one morning to feed the horse and she would not eat! This is so odd that I stopped doing and looked around to figure out what the horse was doing as she was not at the pile I had just placed outside the barn. She kept staring out into the area behind the grain bins. I walked over to her, pet on her and started to scan the area myself and spotted it, a calf elk was stuck behind the fence. It kept running alongside the fence line looking for a way back out into the wheat field. I walked around and opened up the gate and allowed the calf to run out into the stubble field. I figured it had just wandered down and would wander back up into the mountains.

We have been dressing the baby alpaca’s wound on its right back leg and it is doing great. It went from horrible, to bigger, to not as deep and then to closed with a small scab. It was a daily dressing and then finally I went every couple of days to just watching it the last four days. They keep trying to one up each other and this one figured he could be king of the hill so he took the opportunity to lord it over everyone else. I let Snoop and the injured Musketeer out to roam with the rest of the alpaca herd. They are getting tamed down quite nicely. Annmarie keeps treats in her car so if you are a woman and get out of a car alone at our house the alpaca all run over to you to see if there are treats. They don’t bite but the crowding is a little disconcerting if you are not used to it. They don’t even touch you, they just get really close.

Barn clean out 100% done

The barn clean out is finally complete, I managed to get it all done yesterday. This is a process that I have been at for a few weeks. The momma/baby area was and is the hardest part to do as it must be done all by hand. I had a thought about ripping out the wooden dividers and gates and taking the large grain bin out which would allow me to clean up that area with a tractor but it has some much added expense. We would need to get about ten more aluminum panels to pen up and divide the momma/babies. Those panels are not nearly as tall but they are always lifted to stay on top of the current depth of matter on the barn floor. The permanent walls have to be pretty high to accommodate the detritus. I will again lament the availability of a teenager to work the summer doing yard work, pulling weeds, digging out the ditch and digging out the barn. I really hope I can find one for next year that likes to do hard manual labor 2-3 days a week all summer long. We are going to let the barn sit empty for another 2-3 weeks then we will toss down bales for the sheep to tear open and spread around on the floor.

We have been talking about getting our septic tank pumped for the last two years. The holdup is on getting the truck into our front yard. The plan was for me to rebuild the bridge and then they could just drive over it. Well in the last two years I have not managed to find the time to do that. But we were starting to get nervous as the tank had not been pumped out in 15 years. The price of materials is very high now and the thought of having to try and replace a drainage field is frightening. So I had two dump truck loads of gravel brought out to the farm and put in the barn lot, a load of 3” and a load of 1.5”. I cleaned up the spring crossing as it is running over basalt outcropping. I had wood and big rocks to get out of the way. I used some of the big rocks to extend the rock wall behind the barn. I placed them all and then covered them with gravel. I then took a small tamping stick and moved the gravel all around to fill in all of the cracks amongst the rocks. The sheep like to play on the rock wall and we don’t want any of them breaking an ankle. I used some of the bigger rocks as a base in the stream bed and then tossed down the 3” rock. I think I could have gotten all of the water to go through the gravel, but it is 3” minus and there were too many smaller rocks. I did manage to get about 80% of the water to flow through the gravel. I spent a few hours getting the crossing all ready for a heavy truck. I called the septic tank company after the Round Up was over. Nothing happens during Round Up and I was super busy at work and did not have the time to spare either, nothing happens during Round Up. I had left large piles of material dug out from the barn on either end of the barn to be cleaned out later. It took me almost a day to clean up the piles of straw, manure and to drag the entire barn lot clean of horse poop. It’s time to start getting things ready for winter.

We need to sort the sheep one more time this summer. We need to count the number we have for butchering. I thought we had the right amount sorted. Annmarie thinks I may have shorted us in the last sorting. We have been hearing the coyotes moving nearer to our house at night. This is usually the reason we are short animals.

Annmarie and Donna are still working on taming down the alpaca. They are getting pretty sure of themselves and don’t mind coming and having a look to see if you will let them into the yard and allow them to eat the green grass.

Barn clean out almost done

We have decided that it is imperative we get our septic tank pumped. It has been 15 years and it is way past due. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the bridge built this year. I have run out of time and money this year and it will have to be put off for another time. The real problem is the water has worked its way under every single culvert we have across the front spring. The flooding just washes right under them. So we decided to repair the old crossing and improve on it. They used to drive through the spring in the barn lot. It sits on bedrock so the vehicle doesn’t sink when you drive through but the approach was pretty steep and all dirt so with just a little water on it it would become impassable. We ordered up ten yards of 3” gravel and ten yards of 1.5” gravel and had it dumped in the barn lot on Friday. So I spent five hours on Friday cleaning up the area, moving out six loads of driftwood from the flooding and moving large rocks out of the way. I used the biggest rocks to extend the rock wall I am creating behind the barn. I was able to extend the wall another eight feet. I only have about thirty feet left to build. I used the smaller 6-8” rocks in the bed of the waterway then buried them with 3” rock. The rock was not all solid 3”, it had a lot of smaller rock in with it. I think if I had all 3” rock I could have gotten all of the water to run through the rock and none over the top. Now mind you by the time I got the 1.5” rock spread out over the 3” and up both sides of the approaches there is only a little bit of water flowing over the top, most of it is going through the rock bed. We are now ready for the septic pumping truck to drive through the spring. Unfortunately, this is a temporary fix if we have another flood it will wash out the gravel. As soon as I finish digging out the barn, picking up and unloading all of the cow alfalfa I will be going to the far end of the property and working on a flood break right next to the road. I need to stop the flooding from coming down the middle of every upper field. After that I have to start prepping fields for planting. I may have to prep for planting before I do the digging for flooding. Actually, I will have to do the planting first. I did not dig out the barn like I had planned, any excuse to put off digging is always welcome.

I had no more excuses and the barn needs to be dug out. So today I finished digging out the main part of the barn, closed the bottom half of the doors to allow for the wind and heat to pass through the barn easily, allowing the wooden floor to dry out. I have to shut the doors or the horse goes in there, hangs out and poops everywhere. I had to shovel some extra horse poop today as I had not been shutting the doors. The main section of the barn is completed and I have about 60% of the momma/baby area all dug out. I have about 3-4 hours of hand digging left. If I was smart I would rip out the entire momma/baby area and buy another $2k worth of aluminum panels. This would let me clean up almost the entire barn with the tractor and we could make pens on top of the flooring and continue to lift the panels as the material on the floor continued to pile up. It’s more money and currently we are planning a trip overseas, a bridge in the barn lot, finish the office in the old house and remodel the downstairs bathroom so we have plenty of other items to spend our money on.

The little white alpaca is going to live, I think. The wound looks a ton better than it did when we started. It is about 50% healed at this point and I was able to find some 4” Medipore tape that will stick to the hair on the alpaca! So now I can keep a dressing on the wound and not have to dig dried dirt and mud out of the wound every evening. I only found three maggots yesterday. I am having to cut away the dead tissue with a razor knife. The edges got hard and scabby and the wound didn’t want to heal so I have been trimming those off and the edges are now starting to heal. The alpaca does not particularly like this process. We tie it to the corral and use the hose to get it all clean. It is much easier to do with two people. I had to do it one night alone and it was harder. Annmarie will be gone several days this week so I will be doing it alone. I am hopeful that the wound will be healed in a week.

Annmarie spotted a small calf down with our main herd by the schoolhouse four days ago. We looked again yesterday and it looks like one of our cows had twins! They were both running around and playing. So now we will need to run the cows back up to the barn and sorting chute and tag and band the calves. We want to swap the main herd to the other end of the farm as there is more food above the house than below.

Glamorous farm life

I spent most of the weekend working on the barn. It needs to have all of last year’s sheep excrement and straw dug out. I was unable to get a teenager to work for me for the summer. No one is real keen on lots of weed pulling, lawn mowing, weed eating, ditch digging, barn digging and chicken coop cleaning. It’s too bad, the wages are decent and a hard days labor is good for the soul. Since no one else did it, I needed to do it. I used the John Deere tractor as it is small enough to maneuver inside the barn. After the manure forks are attached to the bucket it is not too bad. I have most of the barn dug out after about 13 total hours. I have only hand digging left to do. I use the tractor bucket as the wheelbarrow and just fill it with a pitchfork and shovel. After a few hours on the tractor and smelling like ammonia it is time to do something else. I came in on Sunday and just wanted to lay down on the floor in the laundry room and take a nap after spending five hours in the barn. I tried to nap but the smell of ammonia was so overpowering from my clothes I finally had to strip and shower. I never did get that nap. I wired outlets in the old house, another 13 done. I have one wire to pull down from the ceiling and I will install the track lighting next. The goal is to get power to the building in the next six weeks so the heat pump can be installed.

We also spent about half a day over the weekend cleaning house. There is still a lot of paint dust laying around on every object in the kitchen. On Tuesday, the housekeeper came out and wiped down the entire kitchen so the dust is now gone.

The puppy, Chance, is painful. Yes she is very cute, I love the droopy ear on the right side but she thinks she can jump on you and the furniture nonstop. She does know she is not supposed to some of the time but takes constant reminders to maintain good behavior. If she gets out the front gate she does not want to come back to the house. Packing a 25# puppy over 300 yards is not fun.

Today Annmarie called me to tell me that one of the young alpaca was bleeding and his wound needed to be addressed today. No one had noticed anything amiss prior to this. Annmarie opened the front yard gate and pushed the alpaca toward it, like a curious cat, they all ran for the open gate to see what was on the other side. When I got home we went to get a halter for the alpaca and discovered the horse was panting and drooling. Her tongue was about twice its normal size. She has been in the barn lot for weeks so we are unsure what happened. She was able to eat food and she refused water so we will keep watching her. After we caught the baby white alpaca I proceeded to try and clean off the wound to see what type of injury there was. There were a lot of flies, a lot of maggots and a lot of caked on dirt all over the wound and in it. I cleaned it with a little bit of water to make sure there would not be a lot of bleeding if I opened up the wound. I turned on the hose and started to clean the surrounding tissue of dirt, maggots and dead tissue. It took about 15 minutes to get the wound all cleaned out. I finally had to use my pocket knife to dig out maggots in three places as they had tunneled enough I could not get them with my fingers. I cut away some dead tissue. The wound is about 1.5” wide and 5” long and about 3/4” deep in places. It has been there for a while but didn’t start to bleed until last couple of days due to maggots getting to a blood laden area. We doused it with betadine then used some antibiotic spray, nonabsorbent dressing and some Coban around the top of the leg where the wound was located. The injured alpaca and Snoop (buddy) will be living in the corral for a couple of weeks to allow us to treat the wound daily. If the wound starts to tunnel bad we will just put the alpaca down so it does not suffer. Otherwise, we will try and get the wound to heal. We will see what it looks like tomorrow.