Honey do list

I tried to start the pickup yesterday without success. Since it rained an inch and I had the windows rolled down on the pickup and it had a dead battery there was quite a bit of water inside the cab. Not horrible but I was glad I did not have to sit on the seat. So I added drive to town to my list yesterday. I went out to the machine shed and worked on an alpaca fiber cleaner (sorta tumbler). We had purchased the items several weeks ago and I just needed to assemble them. The top pops off, you toss the fiber in, you hang it up, start it spinning and hit it with the leaf blower to get the dust and debris out of the alpaca fiber so it can be spun into something. I ruined a great new large plastic bucket to make this. Annmarie has been wanting this since spring. I figured since I was going to town I should get new bolts for harrow/seeder. This turned out to be near impossible. The bolt is metric size 10x40mm with fine machine threads that happen to have a 1.25 pitch. I could not find anything with a nylon lock nut for this size bolt. It needs a lock nut and it cannot have a widened flange on the bolt as it sits down and locks into place so you can screw in the bolt without a second wrench. No way to fit a second wrench of any kind up where that nut lives. So I am going to look online and if that doesn’t work then I will order it from the tractor company who will have to order it from Italy, ugh. I cannot find a partially threaded bolt M10x40mm without a flanged head or flanged nut and nut needs to be locking, fine threads and 1.25 pitch on the internet, mind you I only spent 15 minutes looking for one bolt and gave up. Io amo I’Italia!

I was able to buy a new battery for the pickup. As soon as I had it installed I rolled the windows up! We topped off the night by Annmarie cutting an open front box for the safe and a upright for the far side on her laser cutter. The box joints are so tight it took me about 15 minutes with a nylon hammer and some assembly/disassembly machinations to get it together. I got it all installed in the old safe. Today we slipped a note and a dime from 2022 under the new carpet we installed so 50 years from now someone will know how we got the safe! The thing is still hard to get into, it only took me three tries to get it open! On average I would say it takes us about 20 minutes to get it open, it is not something you get in on a regular basis. But since we have all of our legal paperwork stuff in there and our passports the 20 minute time is a concession we are willing to pay. The top shelf is original and we added the new carpet and bottom box and right hand support. It looks cool!

I brought in all of the sheep feeders into the barn yesterday. I need to shorten them for Annmarie and the ground is wet so it was a perfect time to cut the metal outside. The problem was I could not find the right grinder. I found one but discovered I had managed to lose a piece that is necessary to hold a cutting blade in place. I had taken it off to attach a metal cleaning wheel. I finally gave up and started in on the alpaca cleaner and as I was finishing that up I found the correct grinder. It was time to go to town by then, I will get it later in the week. I kept the sheep locked into the barn lot today to see if they would spread out the grass/bedding I had tossed out yesterday. I just dumped unrolled bales all around the barn with the hope that the sheep would spread it out. They did a fine job! I did notice that I forgot to install the 2×4 board at sheep back high to keep the horse out of the barn. The horse bends down and gets into the bar with the sheep otherwise. I put the board up today. Horse poop can pile up pretty quick!

Today we ended up cleaning out the back garden and tossing it over the fence so the sheep can clean up the leavings. They will eat everything down, if the chickens are not fast they will not get any green tomatoes. Besides, the chickens don’t deserve anything special. I am getting 2-3 eggs/day from 11 hens. On top of that, one of the cheeky buggers is an egg eater! I keep finding eggs with a little hole poked in them and the inside eaten out. I am not sure who it is yet but I do need to figure it out. Annmarie gave an injured alpaca update, his eye is open. He still has an eyeball from the pictures but it looks like his right cheek may be swollen. Since we can no longer just go to the farm supply store and buy penicillin we will keep watching him.

The bull was kind enough to crawl through the fence on the upper hillside while we were inside in the kitchen today. He has a spot just past the second large wire rock crib. He just ducks his horns down to the ground, pushes forward and lets the panel rub across his back as he moves forward. I now know where to fix the fence if I ever get time to do it.

Alpaca shearing takes time

Every year we think we are going to get better at shearing the alpaca. I am not sure why we think that as we only do it once a year. We have five brand new alpaca this year, three of which have never been sheared as they are only one year old. This really means that we have an even dozen alpaca that need sheared. On average it takes us about an hour to shear one alpaca so the plan was to start early and shear all of the alpaca in a day. We started on a Saturday morning first thing, but by the time we gathered all of the supplies, strung power extension cords out, cleaned up the milk shed area and got the alpaca corralled it was a couple of hours later.

Now it was time for the real fun, catching the alpaca. The general concept is to get close enough to just sink your hand in their fiber and hold on until you can get a hold of the head and control the animal. It is fairly simple but not as easy to implement. After they got around us a couple of times and some yelling occurred we pushed them into the corral then waded in and got one. Now you put the halter on and the animal needs to be walked/drug over to the shearing table. It really depends on how old they are and whether they are halter trained. Our old alpaca are not halter trained. The only training they have is learned inherently, passive aggressive transport. The minute you get a hold of them they lay down on the ground! They cannot be drug across the ground as you are trying to keep them fairly clean. So they have to be lifted up by two people and carried to the shearing table then thrown on. Luckily, Daughter #2 has been working out and can squat 80+ Kg. She needed all of that muscle to help get the alpaca up onto the shearing table. Once up on the table we had to tie down their head then stretch out their feet so they looked like they were on a medieval torture device then the shearing could begin.

We started off easy with an old one, he laid there fairly well, we trimmed his toes as he was getting sheared and the shears worked well. It only took about 45 minutes. We did not need to grind his lower teeth flat and no fighting teeth needed cut off. The next one was a baby who had never been tied to a table or sheared before. Holy smokes, their fiber is totally different than an old alpaca. It has a ton of crimp, it is very thick and very long. It was very hard to shear, I had to keep oiling the blades and adjusting them constantly to get them to cut correctly. I ended up having to change the blades through midway on each young alpaca. We did all three yearlings and four old alpaca in seven hours. I was shot after that, my lower back was killing me from reaching out and shearing.

The yearlings absolutely hated the shearing table and being tied down. They kept panicking and kicking and getting untied. At one point, we had one standing up on the table and had to pull it back down, stretch it out and tie it back down again. It was brutal. Annmarie is going to make some alpaca sized hobbles so when we put them on and pull them from the center they will self tighten and if the alpaca fight they will tighten some more. After doing three yearling we contemplated whether paying to have them sheared is a viable option. Our real problem is there are 12 of them now!

The next day we all determined that more alpaca work should wait until the following weekend and all of us have had some time to recover. I ended up going over to the neighbors and baling 120 bales of grass. He had a patch that went to seed and was dry so I was unable to bale it. It was tall and green at one point, I just could not get to it. I still have one small field at another neighbor’s house but it needs to not be 108 F outside so I can go over at cut and bale it.

A week later we went out and finished the last five alpaca, our two new older alpaca were also a pain in the behind. They were used to being sheared but they were very scared during it. Padre is our biggest alpaca and he is twice the size of some of them. He was not very cooperative and he had to lift him up onto the table, it was at this point that Monica’s ability to deadlift really came in handy! Between the two of us we were able to force him up onto the table with people power (ie manhandle).

It is always amazing to see how small the alpaca really are after they are sheared. We really needed to do it a month earlier but haying kept delaying it.

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!

Forever Friday 9/42

I did it, I have a new cell phone, I went backwards and purchased the cheap Apple SE 2020. I loved the small size and the larger phone do not fit in my pocket well, especially after you put them in a case that is break proof. I drop my phone at least three times a week, not including all the dirt and dust and bouncing around it does on a weekly basis. The screen seems more responsive and I don’t have to juggle it around in my hand to make it work one handed. All of these are necessities for keeping up the blog.

I spent Friday doing a few odds and ends around the house. We have company coming next week so some cleanup and organization is in order. More concrete blocks were needed for the front spring and bridge in the barn lot. I had planned on driving to Hermiston but found them locally for the same price! I ended up picking up 132 blocks, 40 bags of Sakrete and 200’ of rebar, around 7000 pounds of material. This was good as my trailer only holds 7500#. I managed to get the trailer into the ram pasture and took 90 minutes just before dark to unload them all. I did not want to unload them all at once but I needed the trailer on Saturday to pickup the 40 tons of hay necessary to get us through the winter.

I have decided that I need to lay in and pour two footing for the bridge in the barn lot. This way when the bridge gets washed away I can just find it and set it back on top of the concrete footings.

Saturday start time was 1000, this is nice every once in a while. I had 20 ton of triticale and 20 ton of grass/alfalfa combo to pickup a few miles outside of town. I can only carry 5 of the large bales at a time and had 62 to pickup! The round trip times varied from 26-46 minutes depending on what was going on. I did not finish until around 1730. Once I go to the house I just shoved them off with the tractor. They are too heavy to lift with the tractor. I will get them all organized on Sunday. I want to push as many as I can into the hay side of the machine shed so they are out of the weather. Those will be the last ones used for the year as they will be protected. I cannot lift a full bale so the stack can only be one bale high. I am hoping to get 16 bales under cover. The alpaca love the bales just laying around, they have been going from bale to bale sampling to see which one is their favorite. The bales also afford them the luxury of laying down and eating!

I did have to pause and try and pickup the dead kitten at my mother in laws house. It was in the shed in a red bag. She had a blind kitten that had some weird eye infection that would not go away and one of the nephews named it Frankenstein. She ran over Frank backing out of her garage. I could not find Frank in the red bag. So I called the wife and then the mother in law, it turns out frank was in a red bag inside of a cardboard box inside of a blue bag! Frank has been dealt with and is no longer with us.

Annmarie has made contact with a fiber mill in Idaho that we can drive to and drop off our fleece to be converted into yarn! They want a single fleece per bag so on Tuesday we will do that then we will schedule a delivery day and time! Unfortunately, none of the fiber that we stored out in the barn with the mice and rodents survived. So lesson learned, the fleece must be dealt with directly after it is removed from the animal. I will be creating and assembling a cleaning tumbler next year for the fiber.

I also started to apply epoxy to our gnome doors. I have more to do and obviously need some practice on working with epoxy. Our goal is to get these encased in epoxy and spread them everywhere around our yard and barn lot. Meathead is painting more and I will get those sealed up. I would like to have about 20 of these spread over the property.

Lucky find

Mr Professional had a major score this week, we was working on a different project and spotted a pile of solid concrete blocks and bricks for sale in Pendleton.  He messaged me as I am always on the lookout for a great deal and you never know when you might need a large load of brick and blocks.  We got the whole thing for $250, about 20,000 lbs of block and brick!  It took us two loads with the pickup and trailer and a paltry seven hours to load both loads and unload the first load.  At midnight when we got home we had already moved 30k pounds of block and I was done, I was not going to move any more block.  Two more attempts got all the brick and block neatly stacked at our house and ready for a project.  I am going to use some of the block to make a concrete waterway in the barn lot.  I will use the blocks to line the bottom of the spring where it goes between the cinder block stairs so the animals will have access to clean running water and no weeds will build up where they drink.  I am also thinking about a brick archway leading to our house out by the cars.  This will let me put in a custom gate and anchor it to the brick pillar which will be filled with concrete and rebar.  This is a future plan and is way behind many others that need to happen first.

I have spent the last two Sundays picking blackberries.  You can tell that some of our plants are in with the animals as they clean up the bushes.  This works well for me as there is not a lot of bending over to pick blackberries.  The first Sunday I was able to get 2 gallons off of the first bush.  Today I had to pick 3 quarts on the first bush and go up and pick the other five on two other bushes.  We have enough for 12 pies and I froze some in little snack packs for Annmarie to use in her breakfast smoothie, raw egg, fresh fruit, frozen fruit, Greek vanilla yogurt.

Annmarie has started to clean up our alpaca fiber.  She is picking the organic matter, weeds, out of the fleece so we can send it off for processing.  It will cost us $25/lb to have it processed into yarn.  She is shaking the dirt out and pulling out the hair mats.  She is not the only one who appreciates the alpaca fiber.  Gizmo thinks it is quite soft and has been trying to steal parts of it to use in making up his bed.  He sleeps inside a deep hole in the yard that Mouse dug and he managed to steal some scraps and drag them into his hole.  Here he just plopped down on the fiber to be cleaned.  We are packaging it in large vacuum bags so we can get the bulk down and try and only ship it as weight.  The fleece takes up a large amount of space even though it is not very heavy.  So far we have not had to use the vacuum on the bags yet but I am hoping to get 4-6 fleeces into each bag.  I would like to send 20# boxes.  We will see how it goes, as it takes her about three hours for each fleece and we have about 20-23 to process.  She has done four in the last week after she made the skirting table.


I tried to go up to the old barley field that I cut last week and rake it for hay.  No go, I spent almost two hours trying to rake it to get a pile I could run the baler over and only ended up with two rows.  It is not worth the effort and I just quit.  We will go up and kill the entire field so it can be turned over and cleaned up and replanted this fall.  I want to replant field number 4 also and part of 3.  I need to go buy grass seed soon as everyone always runs out by late fall.

I did get all new tires for the flatbed trailer and will be picking up hay.  I also got two new tires for the horse trailer as the spare was flat and another one blew up with the trailer parked on one of our 105 degree days.  I was going to get the new tractor rim changed over but it turns out they sold me a 15” rim and I needed a 12” rim so I will be taking that back.  The tire shop also managed to get a oil change done on the pickup at the same time!