I seem to be doing one of these updates weekly now. As we go into winter things definitely slow down. Our kittens came back to the wood shed this week! We have been feeding them out in the wood shed but would like to get them to come over to the garden so we don’t have to cross the bridge. I will hopefully get to cut the bridge down in the next two weeks. I will need to make some 2×6 crossing for the kittens so they can get over the water to food once the back creek starts running. It doesn’t need to be much to allow the cats to cross.
Between Annmarie and Donna the alpaca are getting pretty tame. Annmarie keeps apple flavored treats in her car for them so they like seeing her come home. They are not all compliant with eating out of her hand. Our blind one is definitely blind and still a bully. I saw him today tearing up to another alpaca at full speed, chest checking it then start neck wrestling. I was hoping that injury would slow him down.
I asked Annmarie what she wanted for Christmas and she stated she wanted a little shed for the bee supplies and her drip system tools and spare parts. So we found one online and had it shipped. I did not want to assemble and install the shed in January. I realize this may be an early Christmas present but it is only realistic if we do it now so I can get it assembled. It came this week and I spent a day putting it all together and creating a gravel pad for it so that it would not rot out the bottom. I just need to bed the back fence toward the yard and I should be able to attach the shed to the fence to prevent it from blowing over. I found a metal cable and used it to temporarily hold it down. I just need to get the spare drip parts out of the wood shed. So they are all in one place.
Chance, the puppy, is getting bigger. She is not as focused as mouse when it comes to the animals but she does like to chase things. After her run in with the front gate last weekend she has been limping. We keep telling her to take it easy but a six month old puppy does not know how to do that. Yesterday, they got out of the yard when I was working on the shed. This was exhausting so diner time was spent laying down and eating. The puppy is now limping on the other leg. We are starting to take her out on a lead rope around the sheep. I will be taking her out to the barn in the evening to expose her to more animals. She is sitting well for us and holds until released for food.
This week I went and picked up six more adult chickens from someone on Facebook. I was down to only nine hens, the raccoons have been slowly picking them off. I am reluctant to use live traps as I get tired of catching the cats and chickens. But Friday night Annmarie woke me up and said something was trying to get a chicken. This was obviously a stupid chicken as it did not go into the coop at dark. I had to run outside in my underwear and boots in 23 F weather. It is not comfortable! I spotted a raccoon under the old house but failed to hit it after three attempts. It is much harder to hit something in the dark. The next morning I ordered new batteries for my pistol laser. Someone told me there are traps that are dog/cat proof and will only catch raccoons. I got three of them and set them out yesterday afternoon. Today at 1000 I heard the dogs throwing a shit fit over by the chicken coop. They just would not let up. So I went out with my pistol and there was a raccoon that was trying to get into the coop during the day! There is one less raccoon on the farm now.
I went up to the bone yard, dropped off the carcass and proceeded to go up to field one to work on the ditch. I was able to get about another 120’ of ditch dug. I am over 2/3 done with the ditch. I still need to cut the tree out of the dry creek bottom so it doesn’t push the water out of the banks. I am hopeful that I can get this all done before it does a hard freeze and stays frozen.
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.
It has been a pretty good week. Annmarie and I went out to get the sheep on Wednesday evening. We were headed out to the upper pasture when Annmarie spotted this alpaca with an injured eye. It was hard to look at from twelve feet away but it looked injured and had some blood on his face. I thought the eye might be encased in a scab and blinding him. Since I had just come home from work and we were only going to walk up and push the sheep back to the barn lot I had not bothered changing clothes. Knowing the best way to see if the alpaca was blind was to sneak up on his potentially blind side. This worked amazingly well, I got right next to him, but what if he smells you? The solution is to just grab him around the neck suddenly with no warning whatsoever. One would think I would have learned by now, but the rule is once you grab you don’t let go, no matter what! If you let go the there will be no touching that animal for the rest of the day. I held on despite getting tossed around and ending up on the ground. I managed to put a wrestler hold on his neck and get on top of him for the pin! Annmarie had to hold his hips while I looked at his eye, yep scabbed over, could not see the eye. We are going to just watch him. He is one of our older animals and pinning him into a pen for repeated daily treatments when he doesn’t have much life left doesn’t seem like a quality of life he would appreciate. We don’t do the vet for the alpaca, sheep, or cows. The history precluding this incident is he has been on the war path and chasing and beating up other alpaca all week before the injury. We are not sure if he got kicked or ran into something. He was literally chasing victims all over the farm earlier in the week. Annmarie found my phone and all the pens I scattered all over the ground during the takedown event.
I was finally able to get some triticale seed 400#. I could not get it locally in 50# bags and I don’t need a 2000# tote full of triticale seed. I ended up getting it out of Walla Walla through Nutrien Ag Solutions. They delivered it to the house as there is an employee who lives in the area nearby. I got this done Wednesday evening so I would be all ready to go on Friday when I started to plant the triticale. I have three small fields that need triticale, the grass has been planted. There are two patches up on the hillside that need grass planting still but they will have to wait until after the triticale is planted. I don’t want to break the seeder on the hillside while planting experimental test plots until the triticale is in the ground, essentials first!
Friday morning was the big day to get all of the seed in the ground. I got up, cooked a great breakfast and got out to the machine shed. There was only a little grass seed left so I just tossed in a bag of triticale over the top. The bins will only hold one 50# bag of triticale. It will hold about 75# of grass seed. On a fluke I decided to inspect the seeder, it had been used for several days last week. Yep, it has these six inch teeth that rotate, two teeth to each hub for a total of twelve, five of them were broken off. Very not user friendly to get them off. I kept pulling out tools, finally grabbed my impact driver and could not get bolts loose with that. I need a 18” bar to really get some leverage except the teeth sticking down cause wrench access issues. It was a nightmare and took way too long. I finally snapped a couple of bolts off. I managed to get three installed and called it good enough. I was going to have to make a trip to Pendleton to get new nuts and bolts and a round trip would take me around two hours. It was supposed to rain and the clouds looked like it was coming. I started to get the occasional drop on me while I was laying on the ground doing mechanic work. I fired up the tractor and started planting seed, after the first field I had to stop and go back to the machine shop for an actual jacket, it was cold. While I was there I had to pump up the left front tire, it has a slow leak. As soon as I did that the rain started. I got that field done and then drove up to the triangle. The rain makes it easy to see where you have been. It didn’t really start to rain hard until the last thirty minutes. I was shivering by the time I got done and it still took me until 1630 to get done. I spent a long time in the hot shower getting warm. We have gotten one inch of rain in the last 18 hours! The weather is just crazy. I will be planting the hillside after it dries out for 4-5 days. The ground needs to not be muddy. I will also be picking up new nuts and bolts for the seeder. Luckily, I did have a stockpile of teeth already in my parts bin.
Well my staycation continues, Monday was the big day I needed to go pickup hay for the cows. We buy big bales for the winter. I am hopeful that we can get enough triticale planted this fall to put up enough of our own hay to not have to buy anymore. We are getting close. My hope is we have enough for two years this purchase. Then when I hay next year we are set. That is the plan, we are closing in on self sufficiency, it has not been easy to figure out what we need or how to get there.
I started the morning out with a good breakfast! This is the key to farm work. I almost always work through lunch and just eat breakfast and dinner so cooking something hearty first thing is essential. I did do the dishes afterwards. I then hoofed it up the back hillside to make sure the gates were closed after we moved the cows this weekend. I took both border collies and the puppy was in seventh heaven. She doesn’t get out of the yard much as she has a distinct lack of control. Of course I was able to call them back and got the gate opened, Mouse ran in and the puppy, Chance, ran up to the gate then saw a chicken, the chase was on. She terrorized several chickens, me hollering to no avail when she spotted the sheep! So she ran up the creek line alongside the fence looking at sheep, when she turned around and barreled towards me I was ready. I just snatched her off the ground and carried her back to the yard. She was distinctly unrepentant in her demeanor, wagging her tail and licking me the entire time. I then went out and pushed the three bulls across the barn lot, through the front yard and down into the below fields. We have three fences between the cows and the bulls now, our old bull should be contained. He is the Houdini of fence crossers and we don’t want him impregnating anyone. He will be hamburger in the spring. I then had to run to town and drop off stuff for wife, came back just in time to hook up flat bed trailer, pump up back trailer tire that is always chronically low and fuel up the tractor so I can move the bales off of the trailer. I also called for farm diesel to be delivered. Luckily for me, they were loading the truck with diesel for a Pilot Rock run that day and I was able to get squeezed onto the delivery route! This was much appreciated as I was going to run out in the next couple of days as many hours as I am putting on the tractor every day. The best part about this is the hand pump only needs to be moved every other delivery so two times a year. This is very reasonable and the pump works great, I am happy I did not get a second pump for another $350 installed with all the accoutrements.
I then went to get hay, its only about five miles away but we determined that I can only haul four bales at a time. The seller reminded me, four bales, I had him put a fifth on anyway that first load as there were 40 bales to move. It was not happening, four it was. The plan was to just pull the trailer into field four, shove them all off randomly and tomorrow I would place them in an organized fashion. I cannot stack them as the new Kubota will lift them 2-3” only. Which is not bad considering the lifting capacity is only 1100# and the bales weigh 1400#. I will stack them in a neat square.
I pushed three bales off and figured out I could just park the tractor and set the bucket to the right height to hold the bales in place while I drive the trailer out from underneath the bale. This worked super slick and I was off for the second load. I congratulated myself on my efficiency and kept going. The second load I tried to move two bales off at the same time using this technique and almost ripped the plastic bin off the front of the trailer, the bucket height was too low. I fixed that then was pulling the tractor sideways, there was too much weight to hold in place. I had to unload each bale individually with the tractor. On the third load I tried again but this time I got the front of the tractor in front of the spare trailer tire attached to the trailer and pulled the tractor sideways again. I had to unload individually again. Now I was not to be deterred by these obstacles and was determined to recreate the perfect bale dismount again. On the fourth trip I got the bottom part of the tractor forks too low and crushed the tire well! I tried to bend it back and beat on it with a hammer but I had a couple of creases in the metal and it was not happening. I managed to get it off the tire enough to drive it to the shop and cut off the tire well with a grinder. I am going to have to fix that, but I did learn my lesson and discontinued my duplication of perfection. It was getting late and each round trip was taking around 45 minutes. I needed to pick up the pace. I was not even getting out of the pickup at the loading site and moving as fast as possible to get done before we lost daylight. This meant missing dinner but we were having leftovers so I could eat when I was done. On the 8th trip the alpacas decided to create chaos. I had to open one gate to get into the shop/grain bin area. The alpaca had been watching me all day and occasionally would start running at me when I opened the gate. I had been jeering at them and making less than respectful gestures as they tried to rush the gate. I had been winning. This trip they were waiting for me at the gate. I have to open the gate, get back in the pickup and pull pickup and trailer through and then jump out and shut the gate. I had 11/12 of them rush through out into the wheat field! I tried hollering, waving my hat, screaming, hitting them with hat and epithets but none of them worked and the sun was low on the horizon. I just left them. I simply did not have time to mess with them and they knew it! On my 9th trip there were several in the dirt road and when I opened the gate I was able to heard them with the horn and pickup out the gate, now there were 6/12 where they were supposed to be. On the last trip, just enough light to load the trailer, I parked in the alpaca area, with the trailer visible through the gate and used the tractor to push the last six out towards the alfalfa hay. They went grudgingly. Now I think they are all there but there may only be 11, it was hard to count in the dark. I will check in the morning. If there is one out it will stay close to its buddies.
At some point during the day our old bull got up onto the hillside behind our house. He is not supposed to be there, that was the point of me checking the gate. So I will need to look at the top gate and most likely secure the creek crossing. He just crawls under the panels at the creek crossings. He is so annoying. Now there are two fences between him and the females.
I used the tractor to herd the sheep into the barn lot. If they would sleep with the cows we would leave them up there but they always go off by themselves. We are having predator problems again. I have something eating my chickens again and we lost another lamb this last week. So here is the count. I have lost 12 chickens to predators and 3 to natural causes. I am sure it is a raccoon but it keeps harassing the chickens and I am only getting two eggs a day, they are stressed. We have lost three lambs to predators and one jumped into the old hand dug well and drowned. I just noticed this catastrophe by the smell and will now have to fish out a horrible mess. We don’t use the well but I need to clean it out and cover it up, sheep are so stupid. It had to jump up into the thing. We lost one calf to the flooding. The dogs have been barking at night and in early am and I have been going out for the last two weeks with a pistol and flashlight and have not found anything. I scan the trees looking for eyes. Last night at bed time the gods started up the barking, I went out and was just about ready to go inside when I decided to go look at the chicken coop, I was shining the light around and spotted eyes high up in the tree. It was a raccoon. It is no more. The predators and nature are definitely ahead this year. I need to get rid of the coyotes in the upper pasture but I have not seen them this week. Hopefully, we will now start getting more eggs. It will take the chickens a few days to relax and calm down.
The last couple of weeks have been hectic. I have been trying to finish up little projects all over the place. I have finally managed to get the last of the kitchen doors installed! I had to cut down another one to get them to fit correctly. We will be doing some touch up painting in place now but honestly the new color is so much nicer than the yellow. It really brings the countertop and backsplash together in a way that the yellow did not. I do not see us doing that again for at least another 20 years to allow us time to forget how awful it was the first time.
I went out one morning to feed the horse and she would not eat! This is so odd that I stopped doing and looked around to figure out what the horse was doing as she was not at the pile I had just placed outside the barn. She kept staring out into the area behind the grain bins. I walked over to her, pet on her and started to scan the area myself and spotted it, a calf elk was stuck behind the fence. It kept running alongside the fence line looking for a way back out into the wheat field. I walked around and opened up the gate and allowed the calf to run out into the stubble field. I figured it had just wandered down and would wander back up into the mountains.
We have been dressing the baby alpaca’s wound on its right back leg and it is doing great. It went from horrible, to bigger, to not as deep and then to closed with a small scab. It was a daily dressing and then finally I went every couple of days to just watching it the last four days. They keep trying to one up each other and this one figured he could be king of the hill so he took the opportunity to lord it over everyone else. I let Snoop and the injured Musketeer out to roam with the rest of the alpaca herd. They are getting tamed down quite nicely. Annmarie keeps treats in her car so if you are a woman and get out of a car alone at our house the alpaca all run over to you to see if there are treats. They don’t bite but the crowding is a little disconcerting if you are not used to it. They don’t even touch you, they just get really close.