Spring is here, finally

I had big plans to get stuff done this weekend but you only have so much time in a day. On top of that its Easter weekend so we have a family dinner during the day and I don’t do any work. I know its not very common for me but I do take a day off occasionally. Since the beef needed to be cut up that occupied all of Friday. It took about ten hours to cut it and wrap it all, that included the clean up time at the end which is essential or the entire house will continue to smell like raw meat. The meat is incredibly pale and Mr Professional and I had steak, eggs and toast for dinner and it was amazing. Annmarie is busy all week with Easter and helped for a couple of hours before having to go into church. Our biggest problem is the two freezers are full! I had to move a lot of stuff around to make room for the unexpected beef. We filled the tractor bucket with all of the bones. Mr Professional was out after dark putting stuff in the pickup and heard a commotion at the tractor, the cats had figured out where we were piling the scraps! We have two cats living in the machine shed, we must need a few more since the mice got into the air intake on our side by side.

The side by side was ready to spray so I got moving early on Saturday and was out spraying weeds by 0830. I realize that this is not especially early but I did cook breakfast, sausage and waffles, first and then had to drop the panels over the back creek to keep the sheep near the house. We wanted them to be able to go up on the back hillside and eat. For two reasons, one the grass is growing and two they are eating lots of hay. Due to the changes in the creek banks from last years flooding I had to cut the panels to fit as they would no longer occlude the opening like they used to. While Annmarie was letting the sheep out onto the back hillside she asked me if I could see Big Brown, our old ewe. I did not spot her, but once Annmarie came into the yard she reminded me we put her into the orchard with the weanlings to give them some direction. We chuckled as both of us had forgotten this detail. Once that was done, I went out and sprayed. Our side by side has a 50 gallon tank on it and when it is full it makes steering the side by side very hard. The front tires are not really gripping the ground very well and any turn takes twice the normal radius. I need to get the welder up and going so I can make some tractor weight holders to mount on the front of the vehicle. This should help the steering immensely. I sprayed the orchard first by just spot spraying with the wand. It didn’t need the entire field but it did have some patches of thistles that needed to be killed. I found the old Big Brown ewe dead over by the far gate. She had died in the last 24 hours. I finished spraying out the first load of spray then went and picked up Mr Professional. He took the beef bones and Big Brown ewe up to the boneyard.

Once he came back from the boneyard and saw all the green grass and the flood damage he wanted to start planting the bare spots. I told him nope, the plan for the day was to spray weeds and finish the bathroom, nothing else!! We cannot get distracted, there is a lot to do and limited time to do it. We must prioritize or the necessary things will not get done. This is the sole reason to keep a running list of to do’s and keep juggling their priority. He finished installing the four boards in the bathroom and rehung the sliding door so it opens and closes correctly and stays shut. I did not have it level.

I managed to spray all of our upper field, #1 including the fence lines and the ditch. I even managed to get 1/2 of field number 2 sprayed. I also sprayed the triangle near the wheat fields that is a breeding ground for thistles. At one point I overfilled the tank and even managed to spray all the area behind the grain bins. The side by side really needs a ring job, it is burning lots of oil. Before the engine got warmed up I thought I could merely drive over the weeds and smoke them to death. I was getting ready for tank number four when all of a sudden our power went out. Mr Professional was upstairs and hollered to look at the power line, it was waving back and forth. Our up stream neighbor was having some trees cut down. So we drove up there to check and sure enough they dumped a tree on the power line but had no cell service, we drove back down th road until we got service and called the power company around 1330. We did not get power back until around 2315 last night. Before the power company was done they had 3-4 vehicles and a backhoe out there and ended up having to replace a power pole.

Since we had no power, Mr Professional and I went out to work on stringing up the new fence line that runs along the edge of the wheat field. I now use the 5000 foot bailing string to run fence lines and it is the best! We used the T-post tractor pusher to set the T posts, it is the slickest thing ever. We put a few extra right by the horse’s resting area so no one runs over it.

The sheep had gone down to the schoolhouse. My fence repair was supposed to stop that, but fixing the fence does no good when you leave the gate open! Luckily the sheep put themselves onto the back hillside with no prompting and the gate just had to be shut. They even came down and slept behind the barn last night with no prompting! As always, when the sun is out shining it is hard to tell a live alpaca from a dead one.

Groundhog Day

Yesterday was supposed to be an easy day. We were going to sort off the two little bull calves from their mothers. The cows will have babies soon and we don’t want any competition. Now mind you, we tried this in the fall and one of the two crazy babies ran off and stayed away for a couple of days before coming back. We had to let it back in with its mother to get it into a fenced area. We fed on Friday and all of the lower area cows came in so we shut the upper gates so it would be easy to herd them on Saturday.

Saturday morning I went to pick up Mr Professional and I noticed that there were no cows in the correct pasture. That is because I failed to check on the lower pasture gate, it was wide open and the cows were down by the schoolhouse. As we came back from town we stopped at the schoolhouse and ran cows back into the area near the creek. We reinstalled the gate that the bull had removed. This is where one of the heavy duty Packy welded gates are going before we let the bull out of Alcatraz. Mr Professional followed the cows up into the designated field.

Annmarie opened the new yard gate and moved the corral gates around so we could herd the cows in. She also moved the horses to one side of the barn lot and the upper cows into the barn lot so we could sort them next. We opened the gate into the orchard pasture and Mr Professional got three cows in and stopped the rest. We only needed to sort off the little bull and he was one of the three. The new gate in the pasture blocking off the alleyway is not yet completed and once we had the dogs in the field the cows of course bum rushed the gap and got mixed in with the weaned lambs. We got them out and managed to let one cow back into the lower pasture. Now we just needed to move the little bull and his mother to one side of the pasture and into our upper yard hillside. Unfortunately, our youngest Border Collie, Mouse, was just not listening. After a couple of herding chases, Annmarie called him and put him on a lead and took him to other side of the fence. We got the pair onto the upper hillside, the alpaca were in the same field. They had seen the gate opened the day before and ran into the field, but only a few of them, the rest were outside the fence. So we are closing in on the necessary fence opening with the cows, the little bull is looking edgy and trying to bolt. I look up and two alpaca are both on their hind legs standing at full height and trying to fight over our wooden fence! Look squirrel! At this moment, as I am exclaiming my wonder out loud, the bull calf makes a break for it and jumps the ditch. We turn around and try to get him back when he does the same thing he did last time! He jams his head above the woven wire between two strands of wire and starts trying to jump through! Annmarie turns Mouse loose in hopes that he can push the calf back but the calf is faster and manages to leap through the fence. He runs for the long driveway with Mouse in pursuit. We finally get Mouse back and then Annmarie jumps in the pickup. The calf is at the end of the driveway near the cattle guard eyeing us from a quarter of a mile away. Annmarie takes the pickup down to the little seven acre field. If she drives along that field she will be on a diagonal from the calf and can then drive up the road and push the calf back from the cattle guard. Nope, as soon as she started to drive up the edge of the field I saw that calf make the decision, he jumped the cattle guard again and ran down the road.

I was not going to wait two more days just to do this again! The decision was made, it was time for some milk fed 9 month old beef. I headed to the house for my 243 rifle. Annmarie calls me to see if I was getting a gun, once informed I was already headed to the house she followed the little bull so we would be able to solve this problem. Since she had the pickup I loaded up a knife, plastic bags for heart and liver and a rifle. The little bull was kind enough to run into the upper CRP. Annmarie had trailed it on the road to keep it from coming back to the pavement and running into the neighbors field. I was already planning to talk to as many neighbors as it took to solve this problem. I gotta say that the Covid has been rough, that was enough physical activity to give me the shakes. I only wanted to head shoot the calf so we didn’t mess up any meat. I sat down and formed a tripod position and shot it. Nope, it started to trot off and I had to shoot it in the head at a run. It dropped on the second shot. This was not on the list for jobs to complete this day. But once the decision is made everything else has to be set aside so you can process the animal. When we cleaned up the carcass, I had shot it in the neck the first time behind the head but had missed the spine, second time was in the head.

Mr Professional went to get the tractor to make everything easier. We spent the rest of the day skinning and cleaning the carcass. Annmarie had a great idea to tan the hide so we were super careful when removing the hide. I didn’t have any game bags but luckily Mr Professional did. So we will be ordering game bags for when this happens again, because I am sure it will. We could not find any tanning solution locally and after reading the instructions on how to brain tan an animal, I did not think that cooking the brains then running them through the food processor then applying them to the hide seemed like a good use of our time. I am going to get a tanning solution also so we have that on hand. Once we had the carcass all cleaned and bagged up we moved it out to the machine shed. I have a couple of hanging spots for animals and it is away from the chickens and any animals. We moved it with the tractor and when we tried to hoist it up on the single pulley we could not do it! We had to use the tractor and with both of us pulling we managed to get the carcass to move slightly. So using our combined weight the carcass weighs around 330#. I will be adding a second pulley and rerouting the rope so we get a reduction when pulling! I did not expect the carcass to be that heavy. I figure we will get at least 200# of meat off of this animal. Now I just have to plan on cutting up the entire animal this upcoming Friday. It will be an all day affair. We did not get the upper cows sorted. That will happen in the near future.

The wild turkeys found us yesterday and cruised through the property. I don’t mind them passing through, but really don’t want them living anywhere near the houses or outbuildings. Annmarie got tomatoes in the ground and walls of water around them so they don’t freeze. It also keeps them warmer and they grow faster. We are probably going to revisit the driveway gate decision again after this last cow escapade. We had talked about putting two gates across the driveway entrance that are open at all times and we only close when we are working animals so they don’t go down the driveway. It’s hard to get them out of the long driveway. I will need to measure the opening so we have a better understanding of how far of a gap we are trying to block off.

Spring is coming

Well, we have gotten some stuff done this week, it seems like the more you plan the more things need to change to accommodate what is actually occurring on the farm. We were able to sell our daughter’s house this week and will be closing at the end of April. This is going to be a big push for us to get her out and get the house cleaned up. We are going to have to clean out our spare bedroom for her to move into while she finishes college. She will be going to Moscow, ID for the next two years so we will see her on holidays and in the summer. I am sure we will need to make a spot in the attic to store a bunch of her stuff. Luckily, the boxes cannot be too big or they will not get through the attic door.

I borrowed our neighbor’s small backhoe and dug a very large hole. This took me three different locations to find one where I could get deep enough as the soil level is not very deep in places and the clay, rock level is the next level. I finished that over a few hours on Friday and was able to snag a big rock from the side of the road on my way back! Annmarie and I talked about adding it to our rock wall behind the barn. The lambs like to run and jump off of the wall but the best thing they like to do is play King of the Hill! I can put this 600+ pound rock on top of our existing wall and they will be at the highest point in the yard. I took loose gravel and poured it over the rocks after I had them in place so there is no obvious way to catch a leg, there is always a way for the sheep to find a way to get in trouble or harm themselves.

Our plumber came out and set a new drain plug for our upstairs sink and set the sink into the countertop. He is going to come back later after it all dries and finish the drain plumbing. It has this cool drain plug, you just push down the installed plug and it seals, to unseal it you just push down on the plug again! I have been vetoed on keeping the self retracting 50’ plant watering hose with wand plugged in at all times in our new bathroom, something about aesthetics. The compromise is we now have a quick connector installed so I can just push it on and then use the hose to water my plants.

The tractor is older now, ten years, and is starting to show my abuse. The front wheel oil seal blew on the driver’s side. I ordered and picked up a replacement and while I was talking to the dealer, we discussed my next tractor purchase. I am going to get the next size up. I need a slightly larger machine and I will keep the first one also. This will stop me from having to duplicate all of the attachments. I also ordered a new plastic sleeve cover for my hydraulic hoses near the bottom of the tractor, the old one is just about gone and I ordered new locking rings for my three point hitch, they look like a key ring and prevent the tightening mechanism from turning once you have set the tension. A stupid little five dollar thing that prevents a big headache of always having to jump off and retighten the three point side to side swing. These are the little things that you just learn to live with and I am going to make an effort to fix them.

Our ram had not been doing his job, we were hopeful that as soon as we tossed him into the herd he would start having sex immediately. Well, as fat as he is we were not sure how successful he would be and whether he could even mount a ewe. It took him until yesterday to finally get spotted doing his one and only job. We found a gestation tracker calendar we had stashed away and should have lambs starting August 16! We do realize that the sheep are on a 21 day cycle and he was going to be given the benefit of the doubt. His competition is coming this summer sometime. We will run two rams in neighboring fields in the hope that they will speed up their critical work and shorten our lambing season. On the plus side we have several baby ewes from this ram we want to keep and the new ram will allow us to do that.

Annmarie completed her very first alpaca yarn from our own alpaca! She spun the fiber, then made two ply out of it, then soaked it, shook it, dried it, and then put it into skeins. This process takes a lot longer than I had imagined! She spins for about 15 minutes every day, usually in the evening but sometimes first thing in the morning. We are talking about her making an alpaca rug now on her floor loom. We are still on the hunt for some male alpaca, cheap, who need a forever home. We have two that are very old and and don’t think they will make it through this year. We trim hooves, teeth and shear them annually now. They are allowed to free range throughout the farm and are the only animal allowed on the two acres around our cars and yards as they don’t scratch the cars and they are very respectful of fences. I have never been purposefully spit on, you can catch some spit if they are having a pissing match between two alpaca and one ducks. It’s nasty, but for the most part they are very benign. We have about four of them now who you can touch, none that you can just walk up to and pet while they stand still. They are super easy to herd. Just open a gate that they have not been through in a month and they will come running to see what is on the other side!

Is it Spring or not?

I had plans to finish the bathroom over the weekend, that did not happen. I was reminded that we needed to sort the cows and sheep so we could get the ram in with the ewes and the small bull away from his mother as he is now 7 months old. To do this effectively we had talked about installing a gate in the yard fence so we could push the cows from the orchard pasture into the corral across the front yard hillside. So Mr Professional and I spent about 5 hours and got the side gate installed, we had to level the area, dig down and then clean up around the garbage shack. We leveled the whole area with gravel. My hope is the dogs won’t try and dig down. If they do then we will bury concrete blocks to prevent it but we are not going to go to the effort unless the dogs dig.

Once that was done we sorted the sheep. We peeled off 13 lambs that were older than 3 months and our oldest ewe “old brown” to move over into the orchard pasture. This way the ram won’t impregnate any of the young ewes and the ewes will put on weight faster as they are not nursing big lambs. The fat ram followed a bucket of sweet feed from the bull enclosure into the barn. He is such a push over for food. He has been in with the sheep for four days and we have yet to see him mount any thing. He better get to work soon, we will give him another three weeks. Luckily, we already had plans to go down and get another ram for competition. It may be that we are getting his replacement, time will tell.

I had to work that night so Mr Professional came out with a chainsaw and started to cut down all of the volunteer trees that were growing in the orchard pasture. We had talked about it and after he was done it sure made the area look a lot nicer. We are probably going to keep it this way for a while. He cleaned up the whole area also. When I got up we hung the new gate, he had just painted that day, down by the old apple tree. This is one of the heavy duty custom welded gates that the bull cannot tear apart. Once we had it up we did a little touch up painting and added a few boards to fill in the gap and drilled a locking receptacle hole. The gate fits like it was made for the opening. We took the bent one and drove over it with the tractor to straighten it out then installed it in the alleyway in the orchard pasture. We just need to pound In a T-post and add a panel onto the end. This will keep the animals from darting down this narrow pathway and getting stuck. Most of the time it will be open and doing nothing. The gate was not going to be used in a high traffic area due to being too lightweight to contain the bull.

We did not move the cows. I was beat, the covid is dragging me down again and starting to cause chest pain and shortness of breath. The cardiologist says I have pericarditis and need to take high dose NSAIDS for three months. I will see how I feel in four months.

My favorite not job, outdoor plumbing

We finally had to tackle the dreaded water leak. Two weeks ago I was informed that the pump electricity bill had jumped by $100 and it was time to tackle the water leak. It was Sunday and I had some other plans. Those plans did not include crawling around in the cold and mud and digging up plumbing. I hate plumbing. After the wife and I had a discussion, the dogs were running for cover, I went out and put on my chest waders so I could go dig up the plumbing. Mr Professional and I went out to do battle. I was able to use the tractor to tear up the first 18 inches. This area was easy to dig in as I had filled it in with straight gravel last time it had a leak. We kept digging a channel on the downhill side to let the water run out.

It turns out the slip joint had broken. This is the second time this has happened. I think it is from over tightening the joint. We dug it out then went to town and got the parts to fix it. I made Mr Professional do the actual gluing. I cut all the pipe and got it all ready. No matter what I do I usually have to glue everything twice. Once the parts were glued in we left it unpressurized to dry and cure.

I woke up at 0400, went outside in the dark, fired up the pump, made sure there were no leaks and started using the water by taking a shower. It was glorious! A couple of hours later Annmarie texts me that it is now snowing. I had Mr. Professional run out to the house and fill the hole. When it dries out in a couple of months I will get in there with the tractor and build up the area. It only cost about $250 to fix the entire water leak. I was pretty impressed with the repair and cost.