Really, we are almost winterized

Last weekend I was very productive! I am still in winterizing mode and there is still plenty left to do. On Friday last week, I cleaned out the machine shed to make room for both tractors. I need to be able to park them out of the weather. Annmarie, let me know we needed to get the lavender trimmed up, another winterizing chore. I broke out the new DeWalt battery hedge trimmer and started in on the task. This turned out to be a little more difficult than I imagined. The lavender had shoots super low and I had to lift them up to cut them and the huge tree keeps dropping small branches into the lavender making it necessary to clean out the lavender bunch before trimming. I only got half the patch done before it got super cold and for sanity reasons I needed to go back into the house.

On Saturday it was cold, very cold. I put on neck warmer, wool shirt, carhart insulated bibs stocking cap and thick insulated gloves. I wanted something warm to drink, my go to drink is coffee. Coffee is the perfect drink and solves most of what ills a person. I was in a hurry and ended up just boiling some water and throwing a tea bag into the thermos. I wanted to get out and finish the ditch up in field #1. I keep trying to get it finished before we get a hard freeze. I was able to get another 200 feet dug up, reinforced. I found a 20 foot section of the embankment that had been washed out in the last flood. It took quite a while to get this section built back up. It was cold, so I broke out the hot tea. Yeah, it’s tea, simply not a substitute for coffee. I only tried it a couple more times out of thermoregulatory needs, it was cold! The oddest and best part of the day was that my coat smelled amazing. The lavender I had cleaned up and removed from the patch ended up rubbing some lavender oil on my coat and when the wind let off or I had to wipe my nose I could smell the lavender. It made for a nice surprise.

Sunday I decided to start feeding the cows out of our overflow hay in the corral. Each bale weighs around 40# and I fed 16 bales to the upper cows and 16 to the lower cows. I can get 8 on the tractor at a time. I have learned to cut off the net wrapping before I load them onto the tractor so I can just drive them out and dump them off. Its way faster this way and I can contain the wrap. This year I have started putting a bag of used wrap in the trash can weekly. I don’t want to have a huge pile by the spring. I went back to the lavender patch and got it all trimmed up. I pulled weeds and raked the entire patch. The only thing left in the garden to do is to trim the raspberries. I pulled out the prime rib from the freezer. We are going to have it for Thanksgiving

Predators 15, Farm 5

I seem to be doing one of these updates weekly now. As we go into winter things definitely slow down. Our kittens came back to the wood shed this week! We have been feeding them out in the wood shed but would like to get them to come over to the garden so we don’t have to cross the bridge. I will hopefully get to cut the bridge down in the next two weeks. I will need to make some 2×6 crossing for the kittens so they can get over the water to food once the back creek starts running. It doesn’t need to be much to allow the cats to cross.

Between Annmarie and Donna the alpaca are getting pretty tame. Annmarie keeps apple flavored treats in her car for them so they like seeing her come home. They are not all compliant with eating out of her hand. Our blind one is definitely blind and still a bully. I saw him today tearing up to another alpaca at full speed, chest checking it then start neck wrestling. I was hoping that injury would slow him down.

I asked Annmarie what she wanted for Christmas and she stated she wanted a little shed for the bee supplies and her drip system tools and spare parts. So we found one online and had it shipped. I did not want to assemble and install the shed in January. I realize this may be an early Christmas present but it is only realistic if we do it now so I can get it assembled. It came this week and I spent a day putting it all together and creating a gravel pad for it so that it would not rot out the bottom. I just need to bed the back fence toward the yard and I should be able to attach the shed to the fence to prevent it from blowing over. I found a metal cable and used it to temporarily hold it down. I just need to get the spare drip parts out of the wood shed. So they are all in one place.

Chance, the puppy, is getting bigger. She is not as focused as mouse when it comes to the animals but she does like to chase things. After her run in with the front gate last weekend she has been limping. We keep telling her to take it easy but a six month old puppy does not know how to do that. Yesterday, they got out of the yard when I was working on the shed. This was exhausting so diner time was spent laying down and eating. The puppy is now limping on the other leg. We are starting to take her out on a lead rope around the sheep. I will be taking her out to the barn in the evening to expose her to more animals. She is sitting well for us and holds until released for food.

This week I went and picked up six more adult chickens from someone on Facebook. I was down to only nine hens, the raccoons have been slowly picking them off. I am reluctant to use live traps as I get tired of catching the cats and chickens. But Friday night Annmarie woke me up and said something was trying to get a chicken. This was obviously a stupid chicken as it did not go into the coop at dark. I had to run outside in my underwear and boots in 23 F weather. It is not comfortable! I spotted a raccoon under the old house but failed to hit it after three attempts. It is much harder to hit something in the dark. The next morning I ordered new batteries for my pistol laser. Someone told me there are traps that are dog/cat proof and will only catch raccoons. I got three of them and set them out yesterday afternoon. Today at 1000 I heard the dogs throwing a shit fit over by the chicken coop. They just would not let up. So I went out with my pistol and there was a raccoon that was trying to get into the coop during the day! There is one less raccoon on the farm now.

I went up to the bone yard, dropped off the carcass and proceeded to go up to field one to work on the ditch. I was able to get about another 120’ of ditch dug. I am over 2/3 done with the ditch. I still need to cut the tree out of the dry creek bottom so it doesn’t push the water out of the banks. I am hopeful that I can get this all done before it does a hard freeze and stays frozen.

Winterizing almost done

Well Winter is almost officially here. It did snow this week at our house but it did not stick. The mountains have been covered in snow for a week. I keep trying to get things done around the place but the paying job is in overdrive and I have been working a lot making it hard to find time. So I have been doing one item at a time when I have a spare minute. This does tend to drag things out.

We had one of the alpaca die, an old white one. He went to the eternal resting place of all farm animals, the boneyard. Half of them are ancient and half are under age 7 now. We are not sure how their food intake is with all of the land they have access to being dried up. I have been giving them round bales but they are also very dry and the rejects. The alpaca have been eating them but we are worried about their caloric intake. So I went out and got a big bale of alfalfa for them. We have done this in past years but one 1300 pound bale is more hay than 11 (now) alpaca can eat in an entire winter. This makes the bottom of the bale mold as it sits on the ground, gets rained on and lasts all winter long. So this year I managed to get the bale up onto two pallets so it is off the ground. This should make it last all winter, so we are able to feed 11 alpaca for $182 all winter long. Honestly, they are fairly cheap to keep. If we had to pay to have them sheared/feet/teeth trimmed it would be about $70/each. After this year that is not looking too bad! I managed to get the weight box placed on the Kubota and filled up with horseshoes. This is much better than the 50 gallon barrel we used last year. Using this on the Kubota I was able to lift the bale about two inches off the ground and I did not have to try and steer the bale to where I wanted it with only the two front tires touching the ground! I still cannot move the bale in two wheel drive, I have to use four wheel drive on the tractor to get enough traction when there is any moisture on the ground. I will leave the counterweight bucket on all winter, I am hopeful that when I put the snow blade on this will help me immensely. I simply do not want to battle putting on chains in the snow.

I managed to get the mower and weed eater moved over into the wood shed since the bridge is functional. I had already drained and rolled up all of our hoses (11) and drained the front sprinklers and blew out the drip lines in the lavender. I just need to get the hoses into the wood shed and I can cut down the bridge. There are two logs that act as horizontal supports. I will have to build new concrete bases in the spring but I am hopeful that I can use the logs again as the horizontal supports. I will just cut off the ends that have softened. I may be able to get another 15 years out of them. They were here when we moved here and I was able to reuse them when I repaired the bridge the first time. I may also raise the bridge about 12 inches. This should stop it from getting washed away in the floods. If it gets washed away after that then Annmarie will design an ached truss bridge and I will spend a couple of months building it. It won’t be a fast project.

We want to move the honeybees to this side of the back creek. The bridge did not fair very well after the flooding last year and half of it has collapsed. It will not survive another spring runoff. In an attempt to save it, I want to cut it down but then we will have no access to the back shed for a few months. This is unacceptable as we will not be able to check up on the bees and we have been feeding them already so they do not use up all of their honey this winter. We would like them to start the spring with a bunch in the hive so we can steal a lot this next fall. This means the bees need to be moved, without killing the queen and without taking the hive apart as it is now too cold to move the individual boxes. I was able to strap the hive together with a tie down but the bridge needed to temporarily fixed to allow for the transfer. I managed to jack the bridge up using two bottle jacks and this morning Annmarie and I went out to move the hive. It is very heavy and it was decided that just walking and carrying it was not an option. We strapped it to a hand cart and worked it over into the lavender patch. The only problem it will have now is if a huge branch falls down and crushes it. We don’t see that as highly likely but it is possible. We wanted it in the corner to provide some shelter from the wind and weather.

The weather is all screwy again. I am pretty sure that is going to be our new normal. We had 1.35” of rain in a 24 hour period. We set a new record for rainfall in a single day in November. So far we have gotten 1.59” of rain in November and its only the fifth and it did not rain yesterday. We did have a windstorm last night that peaked up to almost 80 mph winds. This of course caused us to lose power last night as all the power lines are above ground and susceptible to tree limbs or poles falling. They had the power up and going by around 1000. Luckily for us we have a propane stovetop and propane stove. We just lit both of them manually and had heat and coffee. Coffee before breakfast, always. There is a reason we keep an old coffee stovetop percolator. We have figured out we are going to have to keep a few gallons of water on hand. I used to keep plastic jugs but found that they will leak over years so we are going to reuse the gallon glass jugs I used to use to make mead. They will not leak and now that we use the old safe I can get rid of the new safe and we will have room for four gallons of water. We did figure one thing out though, we have an old fashioned land line as those used to work 24/7 without power. When our area lost power the land line went dead also. We will now be cancelling our backup as it no longer works without power. Our cell phone service is spotty but its what we have. I will need to get a solar charger for our electronics. We should probably look into solar panels so we have some type of power if the grid goes down but I am unsure about a battery bank and think the technology might be way better in five years. Our puppy did not like the wind storm, every time she went outside she barked at the wind for about 30 seconds before going outside to potty.