The Tractor is Back!

I picked up the tractor on Christmas Eve!  It took them a week and one of the connectors has been pieced together from three different fittings.  It now has a rear hydraulic takeoff with its own lever.  I will now be able to control the angle of the sickle mower and raise the back hatch of the hay baler so it can drop off the completed bale.  I just need to get the lights fixed and working on the roll bar.  I have to move them and attach the new rear facing light as the first time I put them in the wrong spot and lowering the roll bar caused us to destroy one of the lights.  So now I am on the second light and a second wiring harness and the lights have not even worked yet!

While I was in the parking lot at Bimart I had a couple come up to me and ask my opinion about my tractor.  I gave a whole rundown, cost and time savings benefit and the do’s and dont’s.  I walked them around the tractor and spent 30 minutes espousing my love of this machine.  They were convinced they needed one and thanked me for being honest.  This beauty has been used and she shows some wear and tear but keeps on chugging along.  03A20B3A-4531-4178-A8A7-D7780660DE32

I came home with the tractor and had to feed cows in both spots so I pushed large bales around, moved the feeders over the new bales and even spent some time scraping the road clear of alpaca poop.  Annmarie finally called me to ask me what was going on as she thought I was playing with the tractor.  Adult men do not play with tractors, we work with tractors any man could tell you that.  It was nice to be back on it.  I could do 2 hours of tractor work every day and not think it was work.

We had two of the old maps framed and I hung them on our wall.  The maps are from 1886-1912.  We have about 15 left to frame, but it is going to take us a few years to get them all done.  They are of various cities and railroad yards of the surrounding area.

Annmarie and I went out this morning to tag and band the three lambs that are currently out in the barn.  The first one was out with the main herd.  We went into the barn and closed the door so no one could escape.  I slowly waded into the sheep and spotted the untagged baby.  I tried to grab it but it snuck by me.  Annmarie wanted to run all the sheep through the chute but it takes 15 minutes to set it up so then she suggested just squeezing them all at one end of the barn and then I could wade in after she shut the gate.  As she was moving one of the panels I spotted the lone lamb again, I crept up on it and got it isolated.  It started trying to dash side to side and squeeze by me, as it leaped up into the air to get past me, I dove reaching out with my left hand and snagged it out of the air in a flying tackle and ended up longwise on the barn floor in the straw, I had her!  The amazing part is by the time we were done with all three lambs I ended up with no sheep poop on my entire body despite rolling around in the straw with a lamb.  We had two girls and a boy and we moved the momma and babies in with the main herd.

On the way back from the barn, I told Annmarie about my plan to collect 300# rocks and put them on the hillside.  She accused me of wanting to spend time with the mistress (tractor) when there were other things to do.  So instead I worked on mounting the flood lights on the tractor.  I had to run to Pilot Rock for some large hose clamps but I managed to get the lights all installed.  I even mounted a separate on/off switch into a piece of grey plastic electrical conduit and clamped it to my roll bar.  So now to turn on the flood lights I turn on the head lights then turn on the flood lights if needed.  I wired in the flood lights through the tractor lighting circuit.  I need some pins for the quick connect and will have to order them in.  My next project is to order a conversion kit for the “buggy” to put in a large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat and a trickle charger.  This way we don’t have to worry about it starting whenever we want it to run.

I also need to get the machine shed wired so I can install lights and I need another metal cabinet for tractor parts.  Plus, I need to get the sprayer motor changed out to the new one with double the flow volume.  DC05D1FC-F261-4AC5-ADFF-6B3AE2351FA7

Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.

Babies Cometh

It has been a week for random babies. I found the new calf last week while feeding. I came out on Wednesday early afternoon to get the new fence inspected and pictures taken for the water conservation grant. While we are walking toward the fence I spot a still wet calf out in the field. It happens to be green ear tag and she is the fiercest of them all when it comes to protecting a calf. So we gave her a wide berth. The pictures are all taken and I handed over all the hours spent on the fence and all the receipts. We will see how the check looks when it comes, I am hoping to cover supply costs. On Wednesday after spotting the newborn calf I saw brand new twins lambs up on the back hillside. About 15 sheep would not come off the hillside as they did not want to leave the new momma. I walked up there and pushed them down. She stayed with her lambs and I was able to swing panels in the barn and open up the momma area so she could be isolated in her movements. When I walked back up to the hillside she was so skittish that I ended up scooping a lamb under each arm and carrying them back to the barn. She followed me to the barn but then would not enter it. Every time I tried to push her in she would jump around me. I finally gave up and locked her in the barn lot. She ended up in the barn I just could not go up and shut the door.

We have been tossing baby chickens back into the coop after dark every night. They are too stupid to get the concept of going back into the coop before dark. On a plus side they are not afraid of snow. This is amazing as I have always had scaredy cat chickens that did not want to step in the white stuff. I tossed three chicks back into the coop.

Today we moved an old bookcase from our house to Sarah’s. This caused us to rearrange our entire master bedroom. We cleaned under and around things that had not been moved in ten years! We are having a new master bedroom set delivered in the next two weeks. We got a bed frame with drawers under each side. We are going to store linen under the bed in those drawers. This will let me store comforters and quilts in the bathroom closet. The linen always gets buried.

We got the bookcase out without too much trouble but on the way back we had to drop off a sewing machine and table at the Mother-in-law’s house and spotted another calf out in the field! Three born in the last week. Now if only the sheep would take off and start dropping babies.

The big orange barn cat did not run from me this morning. Usually it just hides when it sees me, Annmarie tells me she can touch it. So I fed it on the step and tried to pet it. I would just barely touch it and it would back up and away. We did this four times before it took a half hearted swat at my hand as I tried to pet it. I just stood close to it as it ate after that. I will keep trying to tame it down. The grey and white cat makes a random appearance also. I think there are four cats living out in the barn but they are incredibly elusive.

We bought new gate latch materials yesterday and I installed them today. They are working out very nicely except Zeke disappeared from the yard while I was doing this. He won’t stay in the yard 15 minutes now unsupervised before he is leaping over the fence at some spot. I started trying to cut off all the posts at 12″. Unfortunately, there are two shorter posts, a couple of inches shorter. I was hoping Annmarie would not notice, I am unclear how I thought this would elude her notice, it did not.

After much gnashing of teeth I will be recutting all the posts off to ten inches high and installing wires in the hopes that we can contain Zeke. I will also be cutting wooden extensions for the front gate so it matches the gate over by the outhouse building.

We got our first snow of Winter on Thanksgiving day. It made for a pretty day, we will see if it lasts.

We are going to start feeding the quail. They are living in the rose bushes in the driveway so we will be able to just toss out some feed as we drive to work or come home. We like the quail the best.

Lamb in hand

We have had the ram isolated and in with the steers for the last two weeks since we had a lamb born on the 9th. We figured it was the tip of the iceburg and the babies would start popping out everywhere. It has been two weeks and no more babies. The sheep come into estrus every 3 weeks so she must have been the only one in heat. So babies should start up in 1-2 weeks.

I had to kick the baby chickens out of the coop today. I just went out there and chased or threw them out one at a time. Only about 10 managed to get out on their own. I went out just before dark and after the automatic chicken door had closed and had to chase 24 back into the coop. Only six had made it inside before the auto door closed.

Annmarie and I had a discussion about what to call the side by side UTV. She did not like the name “side by side”. She did not really care for UTV either. So she opted for “buggy”. I tried to explain that a buggy in recreational vehicle terminology is something you use on the sand. We are calling the side by side a “buggy”.

I did go down and feed the cows another bale of hay and spotted a new calf! It looks good. How can it come out ready for winter?

I have started to wire the machine shed. It is going to be a slow process but hoping to have it down before the new year.

We killed two lambs today, it was our part of the trade two sheep for a pig deal we have been doing the last couple of years. It seems to be working out for both of us. Again we were able to salvage an amazing amount of items courtesy of an Indian friend. He took both heads, all 8 forelegs, lungs, kidneys, hearts, livers and some diaphragm meat and some scraps from the hide. I started a fire in the fire pit and burned off the hair for him. But I am not taking the blame if I overdid it. He said last year when I started the bonfire it was so hot he ended up over cooking the heads and legs. He blamed it on the heat, and his wife blamed him! So I did it at a lower heat and smaller fire. Hopefully, it will meet wife approval standards.

Annmarie is violating the Christmas rule by hanging out a Christmas decoration before Thanksgiving! I went out to let the dogs back in a mere few hours and discovered that the Christmas decoration had fallen apart. It would appear that the powers that be also agree with me on the Christmas rule.

Annmarie used the upstairs bathroom to stain some wood for the laser cutter. Its a great space as we can shut the door and turn on the ventilation fan. It may become a permanent craft location for this reason.

Weekend farming in effect

Now that winter is sort of here I am doing mostly farming on the weekends. We are feeding every night after work in the dark. I only have to feed the sheep every night. The cows are getting large bales so I only have to push them one every week. I do it twice a week so they get a new one every 3-4 days. They do better this way instead of pushing them 2 at the same time. The sheep are doing okay on the hay I baled. Its pretty weedy but I figured since that is what they eat all spring and summer they can eat it in the winter until I can get all the fields replanted and cleaned up. This has led to an extra amount of organic matter being deposited on the barn floor. I think our straw consumption is going to go way down this winter. I have to empty out the feeders every few days to get the uneaten organic matter out and I just dump it on the floor.

I went out on Friday to feed the cows and discovered a brown alpaca laying near the hay pile. I figured it would jump up and run away when I got close with the tractor, it did not do that as it was dead! So instead of feeding I used the tractor to scoop up the recently deceased and take them up the property to become animal food. We really don’t know how old the alpaca are and we have had them for several years now. This was not one we can attribute to the other alpaca bullying.

After dropping off the carcass I was at the far end of the farm and the mower was on the tractor so I went up and started mowing the field I had burned last week. Well I started mowing the portion I got burned. I estimate that at a little over 2 acres. I got it all mowed and it is now ready to disc. I am afraid that Mother Nature is going to decide that winter is really here and freeze the ground soon.

I had a list of “honey do” items that I needed to check off on Saturday. I had been promising to fix a piece of hanging ceiling trim for last 8 years. I had attempted a fix once before. I used epoxy this time so it is never going to come down.

I also worked on cleaning up our under stair closet. It was pretty badly organized, and after throwing away a lot of things and creating a give away bag I managed to make it look much better. I really need to get the power wired into the closet so I can install the under cabinet lights. This is quickly moving to near the top of the “to do” list. Our second bathroom is moving up the priority list also. Annmarie says I need to take five minutes or less in the bathroom in the morning doing my routine evacuation. I say that it should be less than 30 minutes. She does not agree with this timing. So I need to get that second bathroom up and running.

I have been compiling my new to do list for the next six months.

Tile and complete upstairs 1/2 bath

Install under cabinet lights in hallway stair closet (wire light plugs first)

Order spare parts for haying equipment

Order perf plate wall hanging organizers

Order wall organizer with drawers

Fix tractor lights

Install trickle charger on Buggy

Dig ditch in the upper upper pasture (needs to happen sooner than later)

Install culverts x 2 in upper upper pasture

Clean out leaves in yard

Install new pump on 50 gallon sprayer and secure tank in rear of buggy

Install overhead electric lift in machine shed

Wire machine shed for bay lights and two more outlets (in progress)

It doesn’t want to burn

This morning was supposed to just start out with success. I am not sure how often that really happens so I am unclear why I expect it? I went to the gas station and got the 20 gallon propane tank filled. I drove out into the field and attached the new fancy long wand onto the brass fitting I used for the short one. I turned on the propane tank and heard the gas leak at the connection I had just tightened. I redid the connection with more teflon tape and it still leaked, which is when I realized they are different size connectors. Who does that? They are made by the same company. So I had to drive back into Pendleton and find the part that would work. This time I assembled the entire thing in the store parking lot, turned on the propane, lit the torch then fired up the afterburner! The whole thing worked so I headed home. I was not going to drive home and be short a part again.

The wind changed direction every 20 minutes or so making it very difficult to decide which side to attack it from. So I just kept driving around the outside trying not to inhale too much smoke. I could not get the flames to get hot enough to drive themselves through the weeds.

I only managed to get two attempts that actually took off and went for a 10-15 minute self directed burn. I have enough burned off now that I can break out the rotary flail mower and knock everything down. Once its down I will disc it all under.

I did see our resident three deer over the weekend. They are going to be disappointed that I am burning down their hiding spot. Annmarie made me chuckle after dinner tonight. She stated that any OHSA inspector that read the blog would die inside a little every time I went out to work not the farm.

I have been thinking about how to get the 8×4 foot window into the end of the barn. That will make any safety minded person a little insane.

The baby chicks have been booted out of their chick area and left to fend with the adult chickens. Unfortunately, they are very scared and nervous. I had to hang more water in the main section of the coop for them as only one has been brave enough to leave the coop and it was too stupid to make it back in. I had to toss it back in after dark.

Burn it all

Yesterday was a burn day finally, we have had an inversion over our part of the county and the last week no one has been allowed to burn. I left the stock racks on the pickup as it gives me something to lash the 20 gallon propane tank to in the back of the pickup. Otherwise I have do do this spider web thing with 6 tie downs that never lasts the entire time. The stock racks hold it in place with only one tie down and make the tank refillable from the tailgate.

My goal was to burn the middle upper field that had no work done on it. Seven acres of prime soil waiting for me to do something with it. I had the pile that Rain Man and I had made to burn, I had a pile of weeds down by the cow feeding area and I had visions of burning weeds out by the main gate. Now my single biggest mistake was not communicating my goals to the missus. I started both piles and then ended up burning all the star thistle down by my mother-in-law’s house. I then burned weeds on both sides of the road by the entrance cattle guard.

Unfortunately, while I was doing that the fire took off up the fence line and headed up the road. I watched it for about an hour then realized that it would take another 4 hours at the slow rate it was creeping along. I tried to burn back stops twice but just managed to start a fire further up. I finally just took a pitch fork and rake and made a dirt gap then lit one side on fire. This stopped the oncoming fire and put it out so I could go to the actual field I was planning on burning in the first place.

Unfortunately, the field was not super dry so I had to keep applying flame to get it to burn. I only had a three foot wand and it was too short for the job. I was cooking my face, head, ears, beard and arms from the heat. I tried burning for another three hours until I ran out of propane and broke the burning wand, both events occurred simultaneously. I was driving the truck and dragging the lit wand backwards on the ground. Otherwise you have to turn off the gas, wind up the hose into the back of the pickup and put the wand in the back after making sure the flame is out. If you do this every time you have to move the pickup it will make you crazy. But if you don’t do something then the wand gets broken.

So I went to town Saturday evening and bought a 6′ torch! I figured I could get away from the heat and keep burning. It was dark when I got home so I would put it together in the morning. I can fill the tank after that.

I even took the second cow feeder down and filled it with a second bale. Our weather has been pretty mild but it is time to start feeding the cows.