I want to be able to not have to go down the stairs to pee in the middle of the night. This is becoming more and more of a priority for us. So the child came out yesterday and she shlepped clean water up and down the stairs while I squeezed grout between the tiles using a grout pastry bag. We used the same epoxy grout that was left over from the floors downstairs. It is 100% waterproof but incredibly hard to put down. I had some tips from the tile store and did smaller sections of floor and just kept cleaning and cleaning over and over again. It turned out better than when we did the downstairs floor. Eighty square feet took us 5 hours to get completed. I also recut the door threshold from the original to reuse. The entire floor was grouted on Saturday.
On Sunday we worked on getting the backsplash installed. Again it took almost four hours to get 19 tiles laid onto the wall. The copper coated tiles look great but they are incredibly painful to get to stick. I had to cut them apart to get them to fit around the plumbing then we just patched in 1 small, large or two small tiles to fill in the gaps wherever they would fit regardless of the pattern. Sarah and I figured no one else would be able to tell. We included a picture to see if anyone notices the differences. Sarah even managed to get a couple of action shots of me hard at work. I sandwiched the tiles together but I think that grout is going to be necessary. I have some no sand grout that will go over everything. I am also told that our wall finish wood is cut and ready for pickup. I ordered 1600 Lf of 1×6 blue pine. I need to get the wall behind the toilet area installed, then go over to the Tricities and pickup my bathroom vanity, granite top and sink as they are ready to go. Once that is done it is time for the plumber to install everything! The bathroom can be used while we finish installing the rest of the boards on the walls and ceiling.
I had another stupid chicken die. Some times I am amazed that they can even figure out how to breathe. I have lost two this month already. I think it is the normal spring virus the chickens get when the waterfowl move in. It’s so annoying, I plan on 4-6 dying every year.
We were supposed to be done with lambing, it’s just that not everyone got the message. Sarah went out this week and discovered a set of twins. They got put into the momma area under the stairs. The babies did well and today we went out and banded and tagged all the sheep in the momma/baby area, kicked them out with the main herd and moved the twins and their momma into the baby area. Now we no longer have to carry water to any sheep! This is one of our main goals in life. We could not get the three untagged lambs running with the main herd as they were still out on the back hillside running around with everyone else.
When you walk through the barn lot it looks like the testicle fairy has been busy. There are little fur bags with double bright orange rubber bands all over the barn lot.
Three days ago Annmarie opened up the back hillside to the sheep. Within 3 hours they had figured out how to get under the fence at the creek crossing. We just gave up and went out and opened up the hillside gate. I cannot lower the fence over the runoff creek as there is a ton of snow up in the mountains and it was 64 degrees F today. Once the runoff creek picks up the sheep will have a harder time crossing it. So far its just a skinny little thing that has been running for a couple of months now.
I finally took all the cardboard items I had been stashing in the dining room and burned the twig pile I had been creating in the orchard. We needed it burnt as this area is going to become our Lavender grow area. It still needs a new fence and an animal lane to get to the side gate so we can still move sheep and cows around the garden.
Well a new bathroom upstairs would be very nice and there is progress being made on said bathroom but it is not happening very fast. Last week we got the kick board tiles installed and now need to install the backsplash. I will try and squeeze in some time this week to run the grout cleaner between the installed tiles and vacuum the entire area so its ready for grout. I figured I really need to install the backsplash first but I am sure that will take me about three hours to get right. The problem with tiling is not that it’s hard it is just very tedious when done right. You have to constantly check yourself to ensure that you are still level or on the line. The tiles want to start to move when you get a bunch in a row and you have to leave space on the outside for movement. Negating your choice to just jam them in place until they are stuck. We are happy with the results so far.
I drove over to the Tricities ten days ago to pick out a granite top for our vanity. We are going to reuse the old wash basin that was stashed in one of the rooms of this house. It’s made out of solid wood. The real problem is it has a scalloped shaped top and I knew it would be hard to cut a top to match. We took the vanity and our hand hammered sink with us so we could match them from the scrap pile. I had also used a piece of clear plastic to mock up the granite top and took that also. It only took about 15 minutes to find a piece that went well with the sink. Since we live so far away they agreed to mock it up and just send me an email to authorize the CNC template. A computer cuts the granite to any shape!
The granite place sent us a completed picture after they finished. It is amazing! I love how it turned out. I had them not set the sink or glue the top down to make it easier for me to bring home. I will get it all put together when I get it home. I need to cut out the right half of the top drawer to make room for the drain and faucet. I am very happy with the amazing work they put into this solid vanity. We are not going to refinish or do anything to the wooden cabinet. It has some dents and dings and we want to leave those in place.
It has been an incredibly long lambing season, over three months of trickle babies the entire time. The ram was totally slacking this last time around and us not having everyone synced did not help matters. We have one last go around to do out in the barn. We still have about 8 babies in the momma/baby area that need to be tagged and banded. Once that is done we are absolutely done. I will go out and lock the cows out of the orchard this week and let it start growing back again so in 2-3 weeks we can sort off all the old ewes we are culling and all the female babies that we don’t want pregnant and they can live in the orchard away from the ram. He better be too busy to worry about those ewes once we turn him in with the main herd. Our last set of twins was incredibly tiny and they have spent a week in their own pen growing. They are now in with the momma/baby pen because we got tired of carrying water every day to them. Now we just open the gate and they go get their own water.
I was headed to work last week and spotted mouse down by the creek avidly staring at something. When he pays that much attention to something it is usually bad for the other thing. It turned out to be a little lamb that stuck its head through the fence to get to the green grass and then when the dog scared it, it stood and could not get its head out of the fence. Once all the dogs figured out the lamb was stuck, they all wanted to go over and lick its head which just freaked the lamb out more. Once I forced its butt down it slid right out of the hole.
We have one brown and white speckled baby that keeps making these weird sounds. I didn’t notice it (I never notice anything weird in the barn) but Annmarie said it was making these grunting sounds and trying to poop. So I was out in the barn getting ready to feed and while chasing everyone out heard this weird noise. I started looking around and spotted that baby ewe trying to poop. I could not get a hold of it before it ran outside. I have been paying attention to it ever since. It is a little girl and it has a sweet tooth! It keeps eating at the molasses licks in the barn and getting constipated from them. That is some dedication to your passion.
These are are final numbers for winter 2019. We actually did pretty good compared to the big farms. We only had a 16% lamb mortality. We almost had 150% productivity when you counted live lambs at a week and when you just counted births it was almost 180%! We are super stoked about those numbers and hope to keep up the average on the next go around. The best part was I did not have to pull a single lamb this lambing season.
It seems like every year I end up digging up a leak. I keep hoping that we will be able to go one year without an issue, but so far I don’t think that has happened. After the electrician replaced the burned up pump controller the pressure would only go to 58#. It is supposed to go up to 60# and then stop the pump and not restart until the pressure drops to 40#. Well it could not get to the max pressure while the pump was running continuously. Both Annmarie and I suspected the wet/green patch we noticed last year down by the irrigation ditch but it had never surfaced. Well on Thursday my mother-in-law and nephew found water coming out of the bank and ground by the suspicious spot. I tried to take a shower Friday morning and had to give up as the pressure was down to spitting pressure. I went in to town to buy supplies. Since the pipe was above the water level in the ditch we decided that some form of conduit was needed to protect the pipe. We had flooding the previous year and it strained the pipe and caused it to have a slight bow across the water.
I decided that running a larger piece of pipe over the smaller pipe and then anchoring it at both ends with poured concrete blocks would work. I went around town and got all the parts needed to patch the pipe, create a conduit sleeve, create concrete forms and pour concrete. I got home by 1130, put on my chest waders (best thing ever to wear when digging up leaks) and went out to do battle with the leak. I decided to bring the tractor down and see if I could use it to at least dig up the weeds and organic matter. Luckily for me I was able to dig down almost two feet with the tractor because I ended up digging 16 foot trench! I needed to dig all the way to the ditch so I could slide the conduit over the pipe and build the concrete forms. It was still only about two hours of hand digging. I kept the pump on the entire time. This let me wash the loose dirt down into the irrigation ditch. Turns out the pipe just split. It is thin walled pipe and has been plaguing us since they put it in. It should of been thick walled schedule 80 pipe. At this rate we have resigned ourselves to redoing it eventually using rolled thick walled black ABS pipe and having a single continuous piece with no glued joints. It usually breaks at a joint but not this time, it just split. I cut out a 10 foot section and was able to slip a 7 foot piece of 3” black ABS plastic over the water pipe.
I built two concrete forms and then anchored them so they would not spread when I filled them with concrete. I just kept mixing the Sakcrete 60# at a time and put 240# in each form. They are dug into the hillside so only one side will be exposed to the running water. It was supposed to freeze so I covered each form with old rugs to allow them to retain some heat, freezing is bad for the concrete.
I left the hole unfilled as I wanted the dirt to dry out a little bit. I cannot get in close with the tractor as I kept sinking into the ground. It rained today so I am not sure how well my plan is going to work. I did throw a two inch layer of dirt over the entire pipe before leaving. I wanted some weight on the pipe and some freeze protection. I had the box blade on the tractor and could not get back across the ditch. Got stuck twice and eventually had to unhook the box blade, cross the ditch and then reach back over the ditch and yank the box blade across with a chain. I will have to put the dirt back with only the front blade. I did go back and verify that the fix did not leak and the pump does go to 60# now. I took the best shower I have had in 10 months this morning!
It was a beautiful day and my new glasses also noticed the sun was shining. I spent the next 36 hours sick after doing this repair. I caught the plague from the wife, she says I need to do Yoga more! I had night chills both nights so I am going with the plague as the cause of my headache, yuckiness and general miserable feeling, not the physical exertion of digging out a 16 foot ditch.
Well, we keep after it and it seems like another set of lambs pop out every other day. We have had two sets of twins and another single this week. We are getting so desperate for it to be over that we went out and counted every ewe we had. Annmarie made a database with all the ewes in it so we can mark them off after they have their babies. We needed to know when we are going to be done. We have 7 ewes left and as of this morning we still had seven ewes to deliver for a total of 38 ewes delivering.
We started to ask around about survival rate on the lambs. One old farmer told us anything over 75% was acceptable. I did an internet search and found a study out of Canada from their country agricultural department and they said anywhere from 10-30%. They wanted all farms to be <10% but in the study the average was 16% and as high as 33%. Since this is the first year we have tracked it we are just going to have to watch it from year to year and see how we do. They did say that if you have a single lamb then the survival rate is >90% and twins its >70%. So it varies dramatically by how many lambs your ewes are producing. The other interesting fact was the males die at a higher percentage than female lambs, males are the weaker gender. We have had 11 lambs die and one of the oddities we have started to notice is that >50% of them are brown and white in coloration. We have about five distinct colors among the new lambs but over half that have died are brown and white. The other thing we have noticed is that if the lambs are screamers, even if they nurse, they still have a tendency to die. We are not sure what that means other than males are the weaker gender. We have not been checking genders on the dead lambs, maybe next year.
Mouse looks so peaceful here. He is all about working when he is outside. He wants to move animals all the time.
I have been working on getting the upstairs bathroom ready but caught the plague from Annmarie and have been out of the picture for 36 hours. I need to order the tongue and groove boards for the walls and ceiling this week. I have still not done that and keep saying I will.
This is what the floor looks like before it is all dry. The dark red is the dry area. It paints on pink. I tried to use foam brushes but discovered that they tear up and it takes me 3 brushes to get a single coat on the floor. I want to do one more coat and am hoping to do it this afternoon. After this last coat dries I will have a waterproof membrane down and it will be ready for tile. This needs to be done as spring is coming and I will be stuck outside for months on end trying to keep up with the spraying and haying. Our new battery for the buggy is here and I need to install it and the trickle charger, then mount the sprayer so it is ready to go this spring.
Friday morning we lost water. Now this happens at least annually and he had just had some power blips so I figured the pump had just kicked off. The controller resides in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house. I called a few times and realized she was out of the house. Around noon I called and she was home, she attempted to reset the pump without success. I went down to try and see if I could get it started. The pump controller is pretty complicated so I try not and mess with it too much. Annmarie has to reprogram it when I do just randomly push buttons and that takes some effort on her part. We could not find the instruction manual after I tried to turn it off and on (would not do it) then pulled the fuses and got the error code to change from “OC3” to “Er2”. I then attempted to search the internet for the control manual without success. I even called a pump distributor with no success. The longer I stared at the case the more the weird melted plastic section stood out. I could not ever remember that being there. I touched the plastic case and discovered that not only was the case melted but that section was hotter than anywhere else on the case. I called Pendleton Electric, as they do well pump controllers knowledge gained courtesy of Google. I was able to say I thought the pump controller had burned up and to read the tag on the size with the power ratings. They wanted the Hp of the well motor but we don’t know it.
We went out to the barn to start sorting sheep and got a call that the repair guys were here. It was less than two hours from the time I called! Annmarie went down to answer questions and oversee. This left the Child and I to sort all of the sheep. This sounds like a great combination unfortunately sorting out animals is rough on a good day. If you want to know how well you can work with someone then just try and sort animals with them. You will realize that everyone else are a bunch of idiots and if they would just do what you ask of them this entire process would go smoothly. Now when everyone thinks the same thing it tends to cause some problems. Now that we have more 6 foot panels I was able to create a sweep gate in the back of the barn. So as we push more sheep down the chute we can keep moving the sweep gate and shrinking their waiting area. This was Annmarie’s idea but we never had enough panels or lightweight panels to move making this possible. It worked great and will now be something that happens every time.
They were able to put in a new controller and yes the old one had burned up after 15 years. The new one has a pressure display in pounds and nothing else. It’s just a grey box. You turn off the pump now by pulling the fuses. Finally, a sensible design. Unfortunately, they could not get the pressure up to 60#. They maxed out at 57# which means we most likely have a leak. Annmarie walked the entire length of the pipe and could not find any water bubbling up. This does not mean we don’t have a leak as Annmarie reminded me there was an area down by Donna’s that was wetter than we thought it should be last year but it never bubbled but it was near the front spring. So we are going to look at that area hard this spring after all the rain stops or when we lose water totally.
The Child and I had to make some executive decisions as some of the lambs were marked for cull and keep. Their temperament in the chute decided their fate. The child doesn’t like sheep with “crazy eyes” and wanted to cull all bad behavior out of the herd. We saved around 6-8 female lambs to replace the old ewes. We had to save all the old ewes as they have babies. We have 6 no tag Barbados sheep. We had a brand of tag that the sheep could pull out by reaching through the woven wire fences and lost a lot of tags. We are probably going to have to retag them so we can track their babies. They all look alike and we would like to track their productivity. We are going to sort off the ten cull ewes before we put the ram back in with the main herd. They will spend most of the summer in the orchard so we know they are not pregnant when we sell them.
We ran them through the chute system and had 22 to sell written down and 23 in the pen. We tried to recount several times and discover who I had not written down. We finally gave up and ran them back through the chute backwards. All the keep animals were on the inside of the barn so the far end was empty and isolated from the main herd. Before we got halfway through them we found the one I had missed. I had set it up so those sell animals would stay in the milking area of the barn and the corral area. This way when our buyer shows up we can load them and be done in under 15 minutes.
I had to feed the bull and his two charges and the ram next. The bull had gotten tired of the four panels surrounding the large bale of alfalfa and had hooked and thrown it off with his horns. This is one of his talents that he knows and performs on a regular basis. I pulled a large bale of alfalfa out of the machine shed and pushed it down to Alcatraz. I had to open the gate to push the bale inside but this let the bull, 2 steer and the ram out. I thought, foolishly, that they would follow the bale of alfalfa back into their pen. Nope! The bull ran over to the far gate and started hollering for female cows. I got the bale situated and the panels around the new bales. Both horses were in Alcatraz happily munching on alfalfa when I went out with the tractor to chase the animals back. No one wanted to back to isolation. It took me about 30 minutes of tractor wrangling to get everyone back into the pen. I considered going and getting the dogs but last time I lost my voice convincing them that I was boss. The tractor worked eventually. The dogs do best in wide open spaces. I was unable to get either horse away from the all you can eat alfalfa buffet so I just locked them in with the cows and ram. Annmarie got them by just walking over to the pen later that evening. They just walked over to see her, I am not their favorite or their leader.
Removing 23 teenagers, age 6 months or older really opened up the space in the barn. I was surprised. It was enough of a difference that we might end up with a teenage herd running around in the barn lot next winter. We can open up the old lamb shed for shelter and just feed them out of the back of the barn. I will need to think up a feeder type for the outside of the building. The real problem are the horses. What do we do with them? They need some shelter, they will share with the sheep but an all you can eat buffet is not healthy for them despite what they think of the idea.