The old black alpaca fooled me into letting him in through the side gate so he could get back into the orchard. He had been wandering on the back hillside alone for days then came down and sat by the orchard gate. I was out feeding the song birds and he kept hooting and mewing at me until I went over and let him through, Annmarie reminded me that all the gates were open and all he needed to do was just go downstream and walk through them. He was on the back hillside all alone wandering around just like the day before in a matter of hours.
The cows got out of their enclosure on Friday, last week. I spotted them from the living room window. It was almost time to go out and do evening chores but I knew that was too much work for me so I snuck out of the house without telling anyone. I took the dogs and we headed up to get the cows. Annmarie had opened a gate to give them more space and a side gate was open allowing them to get on the back hillside. Zeke and Mouse got them back in the correct field. I only had to walk straight up the bottom field hollering nonstop at the dogs. Mouse works for AnnMarie way better than he does for me but we got it done. When I turned around to come back Annmarie was at the gate watching me and waiting to castigate me for not telling her the cows were out and allowing her to help. I told her the dogs and I were capable of getting the cows in. She still had to do the evening chores and get eggs. The chewed up chicken croaked. It will now get a trip to the boneyard. I thought it was gonna make it, as they usually die within the first 24 hours. Mr Professional came out and fed the cows the same day. He even moved the dog house that was still sitting on the trailer to down by my mother-in-law’s. The cats will appreciate is. He put it under the porch in the back yard. I will need to move it around to the side near the back door leading up the stairs, but it will have to wait until I have some energy.
Annmarie has been picking up all the slack around the farm as I have been fairly worthless since catching covid. She has been feeding and sorting and checking on lambs, feeding chickens and collecting eggs. She has been amazing during this time. She made me promise to not overwork myself when I went back to work. I took a few more days off for a total of 14 then went back to work on Monday. I stayed in my office mostly with only 1-2 trips out of my office. Unfortunately, by Wednesday I was unable to do evening chores at home due to shortness of breath and fatigue. By Thursday I started to get chest pain that continued to get worse, I ended up in the ER that night to make sure I did not have a blood clot in my lungs. No blood clots, just post covid syndrome. So I am back to sitting around again most of the day, resting. I hate resting. I have had to reiterate the not working so hard promise.
We have had the usual drama on the farm. The chickens have decided that they don’t want to go into the coop at night. Anywhere from 3-7 chickens dawdle and end up outside the automatic door. This is not healthy for the chickens as we know there is most likely one raccoon living in the barn or around the barn. Annmarie saw fresh tracks in the snow recently. So we have been kicking them back into the barn when we get eggs. Unfortunately, we only let the ones sitting right outside the gate into the coop, we do not hunt down any strays. It looks like one managed to survive a raccoon attack and it is still alive days later. It is missing part of a wing and hopefully can survive. It unsurprisingly has been hanging pretty close to the chicken coop and is making it inside before the door shuts! So it is maybe not the stupidest chicken in the bunch. We have had two more sets of lamb twins and a huge single lamb born since the last update. I will need to go out and tag and band on Sunday so we can integrate all of them into the momma/baby area. The weather has been very unusual, mid 40’s in December! This is so not normal for us. The front spring is already on the rise and the back winter runoff creek has not started up yet.
The ram is not doing his job in a timely fashion. The ewes are taking their sweet time with having babies. We are talking about getting a second ram so in the off season they can have a buddy. We will also split the ewes into two herds. Once we figure out who is the more active ram we will divide up the ewes in the correct proportion. This will also let us save more of the ewes for cross breeding purposes. If we rotate out the ram every three years this will add significantly to our size upgrade. We really want to get the lambing all done in 30 days.
Well it has been a resounding and expected lousy ending to 2020. I ended up catching Covid despite living like a hermit and wearing a mask. I don’t say that to discourage hermit living or mask wearing as I believe those are two things that prevented me from getting it earlier in the year. I work in healthcare in an ER. I was getting exposed. The disease is horrible, some get just a little cold, some get no symptoms and some get deathly ill. I was in the middle and only wanted to die for a few days, oxygen saturation only dropped for a few days and I was able to stay at home and be miserable. I am now on day 11 and have been vertical since this morning which is a new record. I can tell when I start to overdo it as my head will start to pound. As long as I take it easy I don’t get a headache. In celebration of my feeling better I have started a ham for a batch of ham and beans. As the entire world knows, ham and beans will cure most of what ills you! Since it will be a large batch I will have to freeze some for use at a later date. I should really think about learning how to can my ham and beans! Honestly, just putting it in old yogurt containers and tossing it in the freezer is a lot easier. I wanted to thank all of those who have offered to help out Annmarie and I for the last couple of weeks. We have had food delivered a couple of times and Mr Professional has come out and fixed a little fence and kept the cows in large bales. Luckily, its wintertime and there are not a lot of projects going on. In January, I will need to start back up on the upstairs bathroom and get it done! I could of used that while I was sick.
Currently, that is my only project in the works. We plan on keeping the upper 7 acre field bare and idle this entire next year so it can be planted in grass. I do need to still rent a backhoe in the next 6 weeks to get the rest of the flood damage corrected in the upper fields. That has to happen or the upper fields will flood again. I am waiting on 3 custom gates to be made so they can be installed. Our cows should start having calves soon. I am going to see about getting last year’s financials published as I never did that.
17 lambs born
11 ewes delivered
23 pregnant ewes(maybe)
5 single lambs
6 twin lambs
1 bummer lamb
16 lambs on the farm
155% birthing rate
145% production rate (goal >150%)
100% survival rate at birth
100% survival rate at 2 weeks (3/3)
Mr Professional came out to feed the cows and discovered that the alpaca had broken open a large bale. I was sick and asked him to just pick it up and feed it to the cows. Unfortunately for him the alpaca had laid claim to this bale and were unwilling to give it up. He was convinced the alpaca were going to bite him. Spit on him maybe but they are not biters. He was not convinced so I had him come to the yard and get our two border collies. He was going to only take one but that is not good when dealing with the alpaca. They will gang up on the dogs and the dogs have to be pretty agile and persistent to get them to move away. He came back for Mouse and then I told him to just turn them loose and the dogs would push the alpaca away. He didn’t have to do anything but encourage them to get them. It was over in five minutes, the dogs moved all the alpaca away from the hay so that he could pick up the hay unharassed. The dogs were happy as they got to work, the only one unhappy were the alpaca as they did not get to finish eating their claimed hay.
Today was a catch up day. I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish but I made sure to eat my breakfast and drink a cup of coffee before I went outside. I was sure there would be more lambs, I would have given odds on there being more lambs, there were no lambs. The cows needed food so I pushed a large bale to their area. I also decided it was time to thin out the chickens. I had multiple free loading roosters from the unsexed chicks gifted to me this summer from a friend. I managed to kill five roosters and a very old hen. I loaded them all up into the tractor bucket and took them to a boneyard. Tomorrow will be a good day to look for coyotes, the raccoon carcasses and porcupine carcass are undisturbed. That left me on the tractor with the urge to go up into field number two and move some dirt. I could spend the next six hours doing that still not be done. I resisted the temptation to spend time with the mistress and went back inside.
I did spot the Quail on the way home. They are so fluffy due to the cold. I have been learning to use the delay bake on our oven. I use It when I am making baked potatoes or something else that needs to bake for long stretches of time. I started the butternut squash, then I spent an hour and a half cleaning the bathroom. Once all that was done it was time to tackle the spare bedroom.
I had to hang four pictures of the seasons, girls in circus clothing, we had framed earlier this year. I then had to clean out the cedar bench that has been sitting at the foot of the bed for three years needing to be sorted and some decisions made. I made them fairly quickly and we now have some more space to store wool blankets. Now I can buy more wool blankets. We had been using the room as storage for our giveaway items so I moved all that up into the attic after I bagged it all up so it would stay clean. I also rebalanced the heat distribution so more goes downstairs. Both Annmarie and I went out to feed the sheep and lock them into the barn, they are going to have babies tonight! I also fixed a latch that had fallen off our main hay gate between the sheep area and our first hay room, the old nut had fallen off.
We are looking forward to Thanksgiving. I pick up the prime rib tomorrow and start the dry rub process. I will rub spices on it every evening until we cook it in a salt casket on Thanksgiving. We are having Brussels sprouts as the vegetable. We have this same meal every Thanksgiving. I even managed to snag the last bag of Rhodes frozen dinner rolls at the grocery store. We will cook at least 16-20 even though there are only five of us!
I went out this morning to feed the horses. They will eat everything they have access to so we have to limit their food. I burned a few cardboard boxes on my way to the barn and after starting the fire I looked up and headed to the barn. The sheep were all congregated around the entrance to the barn and about halfway there I realized why, there were lambs! I spotted one, then two and heard the third one before I found it. Three little newborn lambs trying to get out of the barn entrance. I chased all the other sheep out of the barn lot except for four ewes. I only needed two of those ewes but I did not want to run the babies so I opted to trap a few extra until I could get the momma/baby area set up.
I went into the barn and opened up the momma/baby area and then tossed out some bedding and pulled in a feeder for the momma area. I then had to go shut some gates to isolate the momma area and move a panel so they had access to clean water. Then I had to go clean up down by the spring and bend some fencing back into place so the babies cannot slip out of the pen. I never got around to building a short bridge for them to cross the spring. They will have to jump over it this year, maybe next year I can get that installed. As I headed back up to the barn I spotted all three lambs out in the sun and their moms in the barn eating the hay I had just put out. I snagged all three (hard to carry more than three newborn lambs) and put them outside in the momma baby area. This let me sort off the two extra pregnant ewes. I tried to get the numbers from the ear tags of the two new mothers but they were not cooperating. Tonight when we lock them into the momma/baby area we will be able to grab them and look at their tags. We will need to lock everyone up in the barn tonight and every night until all the lambs are born. It’s a lot easier to catch them in the barn! I forgot to check all three babies for gender when I caught them. One is a boy, one is a girl, and I didn’t look at the third one as it was the last one caught and it is a lot harder to hold onto 3 wiggly things than 2!