Cows have not been cooperating

The club wheat on the farm looks great! On our drive to Adams to get the walnut tree I kept comparing wheat fields and ours looks very good in comparison. I talked to the responsible farmer and he said they are trying a new mineral supplement and it seems to be doing the trick. Time will tell if the moisture will hold out for the needed amount and times.

This has been a long week related to cows. The bull keeps getting out of our pasture and going under the road via the culvert to visit the 100% papered Angus heifers that the neighbor has next door. We pushed him over on Sunday and figured we had the access point hardened enough he could not get through. On Tuesday, our neighbor was texting Annmarie to tell her he was in with the heifers again. This time I had to gather tools after work and Mr Professional had come out and pushed him back into our field. He laid down on his belly in the middle of the stream, reached down with his horns and lifted the panel up and then army crawled under the fence, in the water, to get to the other side. He did this because his normal access point is at the side of the fence but we had secured those enough he could not get through. This led to more additions, some tightening, a few extra panels and a ground panel that sticks forward so he has to stand on it to get his horns into the upright panel, therefore holding it down with his own weight. All of this done by tractor flood lights as it was getting dark and the culvert is down in a hole. I was down there working alone and the bull snuck up on me, I didn’t realize it until he was about two feet away. He scared me so I chased him away, he knew what I was doing and did not really want to leave, it took some encouragement to get him moving. So far it is holding I would like to say it is fixed, but I then leaned toward certain as a better word. After a few minutes and thinking about how often he gets out I am pretty certain he is contained, it looks pretty good and we sure gave it the old college try. It kinda depends on how lovesick he gets, maybe it will be good enough, we will see.

There is another creek crossing further up on our property that was destroyed in the flood that lets him drop down into the creek bed and scoot on down to the culvert. If we can get that crossing hardened enough then he will most likely be contained. The crossings have to be removable in the fall so the spring runoff can happen and nothing gets damaged.

I had the opportunity to get another black walnut tree! This one was a ways away and I did not want to load up the tractor on my trailer and drive over there. I would have to make two trips and decided that taking longer to load was an acceptable trade off to not having to make two trips and haul the tractor. I gathered chains, cables, sheet of plywood to cover the metal ramps, come along and a metal pipe to use as a cheater bar. I picked up Mr Professional and away we went. This sounded like a well thought out plan but honestly I did not take into account the shear mass of a large piece of this wood. It took us three hours and the first half of that time was moving the large base piece onto the trailer first. We needed two come alongs to do it and everything else we brought. Unfortunately, by the time we got done the custom cut shop was closed so the trailer just stayed loaded and I will get it offloaded this week. We will go back into the cue for cutting and may get it cut up in a couple of months. Luckily, I ordered more banding and it’s a different color so it makes it easy to differentiate the trees that will banded and stored together in the old chicken coop. I am even considering getting into the maple pile, cleaning it up and then having it all planed down to useable flat pieces. I can then shrink the storage space it takes by banding it all together and storing it in the coop.

The alpaca seem to have finally come to a consensus and are now behaving. They are such weird creatures. The rabbit is back! I have seen it several times and it is still not afraid of humans, you can get within a few feet before it even moves.

With all this wind we are having the new windmill needed an addition to keep the top plastic bushing in place. This should keep it from popping out now and the windmill can tear it up, which it is doing in the 35-40 mph winds. It is only rated up to 65 mph so we will see how it does in our area long term.

Staycation 88% completed

This week the weather has improved dramatically so the priorities have had to change a little. I wanted to get projects done that set up Mr Professional so he can come out and work alone when I am back to work. So lots of organizing, sorting and cleaning up has been happening. On Wednesday morning we sorted the sheep and pulled off the rest of the lambs. Not sure why I didn’t think of that the first time, but problem solved. We moved all the lambs but three over into the orchard pasture to hang out. I thought we only had three in with the ewes, we spotted a fourth one that evening when we were feeding, a little boy snuck past, he must have been hidden in a mass of ewes. The grass in that pasture is over eight inches tall and needs something to start eating it down so I don’t have to mow it. We want the babies close as they have a tendency to disappear due to predators. We let Zeke, our old border collie push the lambs through the yard into the orchard, he was very happy. All he did was walk up to them and lay down. He has been laying around a lot lately and has started not eating all of his meals. We are going to switch him to soft food to attempt to encourage him to eat. He is probably not going to make it through this year.

We went out to the machine shed and sorted through the piles of scrap wood we got a couple of years ago. It was leftovers we got for a steal and had it delivered right to the house which made it even a better deal. We are now starting to dig through and use the material for various projects around the house. But it was taking up space in the machine shed and we are going to make the old chicken coop the storage area. So we sorted out the junk. Sorted out the stuff we would use once for concrete forms, which are now stored outside the chicken coop and tarped, under the eaves, so we can have easy access to it when needed. We even kept the subflooring sheets and oak plywood sheets separately in the chicken coop so we can use them for the old house. The old bathroom is going to be Annmarie’s office storage room and it will get oak plywood flooring. The floors are slanted and will need to be leveled. The old kitchen, soon to be freezer room, will need to get leveled also but it will just be 3/4” subflooring and 1/2” plywood sheeting on it. We will just be sanding down the original floor like we did in our upstairs rooms in the house.

I took the time to brush the horse. She is shedding something fierce and without another horse buddy to help her groom she needs some assistance. I have brushed her twice this vacation and Sarah brushed out the dogs when she was home so everyone looks pretty good. We came into the house and took out the old TV stand. It is very heavy but Annmarie reminded us we have the shoulder furniture movers so we found those and it made moving the stand an easy thing. I moved the new chest into its spot after cleaning the floor and doing some cord management stuff to organize the electrical mess. Annmarie wants us to use a piece of plastic channel to contain all of the TV cords to make it neater. When that comes we will install it, it does look a lot nicer with the cords contained.

Mr Professional got the side by side up and running in under five minutes. This is without the battery being plugged in. Adding that large deep cycle battery under the driver’s seat was just what we needed to keep the thing going. A dead battery all the time is highly annoying.

The small stuff I ordered for the tractor came this week. The speed handle is installed! This should just come standard on every tractor, I am unsure why they don’t. There are a couple of tool racks that will hold a chain between them now mounted behind the seat on the roll bar. The chain is actually in one spot now not tied down to some random piece of the tractor. The quick hitch is now installed and I have filled the ballast box with horseshoes. So now the Kubota has pallet forks on the front and a ballast box on the back with several hundred pounds of steel in it. It feels a lot better when you are carrying something heavy on the front.

We let the new alpaca out of the orchard thinking that everyone seemed to be getting along. The old adage that fences make great neighbors is still true. By that afternoon Mad Max had the young brown one pinned to the ground and was screaming in his ear. I tried to holler at them to get them to stop but no go. I went over and encouraged him to get off of the baby and strained my right knee. He did not initially take the hint. The alpaca can be very stubborn or determined, depending on how you look at it. We watched them for a while and all seemed to be copacetic. The next morning when I went outside there was more fighting. I went out and chased away the offenders but I could only find the two new young white alpaca and only counted ten. Which meant that the young brown one was missing, but Mad Max was present but one of our other old brown alpaca was missing. I had to walk all the way down to the end of the driveway and found the poor little alpaca pinned to the ground and the older one on top grinding into him. I had to chase him off with my coffee cup as a tool, my knee still hurts so no kicking. When I got back to the now 12 alpaca I wanted to put the three babies back into the orchard with the lambs. But they kept walking away from me. So instead when I opened the gate the seven older ones bum rushed the open gate and went into the orchard. So now the new animals are outside the fence and the old grumpy men are stuck in the orchard. Mad Max is now with the young ones but he has not been any trouble since the split. So now Annmarie asked me if I verified the gender on all three new alpaca. I did not do that. So now we need to verify that we did not end up with a female as we really do not want any cria.

On Thursday we got the side by side ready to spray. I put the first 30 gallons of round up through just spraying our road and driveway down. The only bad part about roundup is it takes at least a week before you can tell something was sprayed and two weeks for it to totally die. We cleaned out the tank and Mr Professional sprayed field #5 & 5A with 2-4-D & Milestone to kill the broadleafs, the thistles are already starting to spread. Unfortunately, the flood from two years ago changed the direction of the creek and one of the tall banks is seriously undercut. We have probably already lost eight feet of hillside and may lose another eight feet. If we lose that total 16’ I will have to move the fence. There is a very large curve in the creek now. We finished cleaning up and tossing everything onto the burn pile. I will need to get that burned again in the next month.

The big push now will be to get the spray onto all of the hay fields. We need to do this as soon as possible and then once that is done we can start fixing the fence down by four corners. As soon as that fence is done then it will be repairs on the hay baler and getting all the tractors tuned up and oil changed so everything is ready for haying season. We will be getting the barns cleaned out also so we have a place to put the new good hay.

Staycation 47% completed

I keep thinking I am not getting things done but the blog helps keep me on track, if nothing else I can see that things are actually getting done. First thing Thursday morning I hung the corner shelf I made earlier in the week. The brackets came with a cute little 4” level to make sure you hung the shelf correctly. That afternoon the new cables and cable protectors arrived and Sarah and I put the router up onto the shelf. The 90 degree data cable ends really helped the cable stay next to the wall. I had to put an extension cord up to the shelf and plug in the two things behind the router. I was afraid you could tell but it is fairly invisible. This also gives us a better wifi signal throughout the house as the transmitter is higher up on the wall. There was only a small amount of disagreement. We basically agreed to disagree as neither one of us was listening or communicating effectively. This summer when the child and foreign child are home I am going to be spending a lot of time outside. I believe this is the wife’s number one complaint! Our old foreign exchange student, Monica is going to spend the entire summer with us. She is out of college for the summer and will be getting some experience on our farm with various animals. She also wants to learn how to drive a stick shift car. I offered to teach her how to drive the tractors but she was not as impressed by that as she had spent last year driving a skidsteer in a dairy setting. She has been working out so I see a lot of rock wall work getting done this summer.

When I went out to let everyone out of the barn I spent an hour digging straw and making sure we could open various gates. I used our new lightweight panels and built a run that would funnel the sheep to the back of the barn, so we could then run them through the chute and sort them. It was nice to be able to just put the panels on top of the straw and not have to dig down 18” to make the panels fit. Sarah and I were going to come out and sort off the female lambs so the new ram could not get them pregnant. The problem with this is no one likes being separated from their mother and they throw a continuously loud fit for several days over it. But it needs to happen as the sheep can technically get pregnant at 3 months old. We have never had any under 6 months old get pregnant but after 6 months all bets are off. We needed to count lambs also so we know how many we can sell.

I had spaghetti sauce on the stovetop. I use the melting burner to keep a really low heat on the pot. The problem with this is the sauce was not cooking down very fast and since Sarah and I were headed out to sort sheep at 1500 I figured I could turn up the burner and when we were done in an hour it would be ready for the final adjustment before dinner at 1700. I should have known better. It took us 135 minutes to get the sheep sorted! Annmarie came home around 1700 and found out that the sauce had just started to burn on the bottom of the pan. She was able to transfer it to a new pot, add a cup of water and finish it off. It tasted very good.

Sarah and I counted 42 lambs. It was supposed to be 20 boys, 22 girls, instead we had 21/21. I had to look at the online birth record and we tagged one of the girls with a boy tag because we ran out of tags, two of the boy lambs had managed to rip out their ear tags. One of the calmer ewes had a big bubble on the left side of her face. Sarah had sent me a picture so I brought a scalpel out to the barn. It is most likely an abscess and will need to be lanced and cleaned. The baby girls were crazy and kept ramming into the sorting chute and almost managed to jump back into the pen with the herd several times. We had to put up a second wall to keep them away. We pinned the face bulging ewe into the chute and it was an abscess, I cut about a 1.5” long horizontal incision and then squeezed out all the pus. It was really thick and would not have been easy for her body to get rid of it. I then cleaned it out and put some blue skin treatment on it. Unfortunately the skin treatment stains everything it touches and the ewe had started to swing her head around by this time and get it all over Sarah and I. Sarah got it the worst. We went inside to crow about our success and the first thing Annmarie asks us is why we did not sort off the boy lambs also? This way the ewes would get a break from making milk and burning so many calories and could maybe put on some weight. As there was no logical reason for us not doing this Sarah and I were kind of dumbstruck. Annmarie and I will be sorting them again next week.

On Thursday I was given the contact information for some people in the Hermiston area that were trying to sell their three alpaca who are only one year old. So I called them Friday morning and after morning chores I hooked up the stock trailer and went to Hermiston. I got all three intact boys, brothers, for $280. We now have 12 alpaca and will not be buying any more for years! They live 20 years and we will lose several in the next 1-2 years as they are just old.

The custom wood mill called Friday afternoon and said they wanted to cut the black walnut we had dropped off. I hooked up to the flat bed trailer, picked up Mr Professional and went to the custom cut mill. We talked about the pieces and how wide to cut them. The mill can only cut 24” piece but by the time you clear the edges we ended up with a solid 20” piece. The wood has so many colors! I was surprised at the variety of colors in it. In two hours they were only able to cut 1/3 pieces. On Monday I will go and get the other two pieces cut. We came out to the farm, cleared a spot in the old chicken coop, cleaned off all the sawdust and then unloaded it. Those nine foot pieces 3” thick weigh almost 200#. Once it was stacked we banded it together. It took a while to get the hang of the bander. I had never used one before. I did find a way to use the OSB sheets we have stacked out in the machine shed. We are going to put up black plastic to keep out moisture and light and hold it pinned up against the chicken wire to keep the rain out of the building. The building is about 1/3 full of wood. The OSB was $5/sheet as it was scrap so its perfect. I will keep each end open so the wind can still move through for circulation.

Staycation started

Well it’s official, I am on vacation at home for the next 17 days. I had to take the first batch of cows in on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Annmarie and I had a dinner to attend Thursday evening. So I was outside in the dark trying to move animals. We have it set up now so you can push animals through the orchard then through our front yard into the corral. This is infinitely more preferable to just letting them out into the area surrounding our houses. They can run all over and with the buildings and piles of stuff all around it makes herding them very difficult.

The two new alpaca were still in the orchard so I ”let” them out. This sounds easy but they did not want to go out the gate and kept running past the open gate. I did this several times then went out the open gate and tried to drive two of our main herd alpacas into the orchard. This was another abysmal failure. I had a head lamp on and I had a bright flash light that I would shine on the gate opening. I went back into the orchard muttering to the alpaca that they needed to comply or else I was going to have to go get the border collie, Mouse. They have not been exposed to the dogs except through the fence and I did want the conditions to be better before relationships get established. Eventually, with running back and forth I managed to get them to go through the gate, then latched it. I went down to pasture #5a which borders the orchard, latched the gate that goes out into the main grazing area and opened the gate into the orchard. The cows usually come in at night and hang out near my mother-in-law’s house and they were so I did not have to go all the way down to the school house and try and run them back. Again, the cows did not want to go through the gate. The green tag cow kept breaking and running behind me. This reminded me of why we are getting rid of her, she is so painful to deal with on multiple levels. After much effort on my part I was able to get the cows into the orchard. There was no way I was going to get them through the four foot gate, into our front yard then into the corral alone. I opted to go get some help that is used to my working animals language. Mouse, came out with me! It is hard to see a black and white border collie in the dark so we have some collar hanging bobs that strobe white. We used to use them when letting the dogs out to potty at night. They would pretend they could not hear us because we could not see them. The lights stopped that nonsense. I found one that still worked and put it on Mouse. This way I could see where the dog was and only had to worry about finding the cows with the flashlight. It was rough going initially. Mouse still thinks a problem should be dealt with head on hence his propensity for straight lines. Eventually with enough yelling and trial and error we established an effective communication method that allowed us both to kinda get what we wanted. Once we had the cows into the corral area they ran back behind the barn. Unfortunately, all of our cows happened to be in the barn lot and everyone started raising a ruckus and I was afraid the four would go through the fence to join the herd. Mouse and I managed to dissuade this desire and got them locked into the corral area. Now when I came out in the morning and backed the trailer up to the corral the cows can just be encouraged to load up.

The plan worked! I had no trouble getting the cows loaded and taken in to the abbotoir. That was the first four, I will take the last three in for their final destination in a couple of weeks. This is good because yesterday morning I went to pull the pickup over to the flat bed trailer and the pickup would not start, totally dead! Even though I had all the spare parts and tools with me on our Salem trip in case we got stranded this would have been bad. The last time I was stranded with Annmarie in the vehicle we bought a new pickup. She doesn’t like hanging out on the roadside. The pickup just needs some TLC which it will get as soon as I drop off the last three. Mr Professional got the new battery connection installed, unfortunately the old one was glued on and it took some extra tools to get it off the battery terminal without injuring the battery. I drove right over and we hooked up the flatbed trailer. While he worked on the battery I worked to clean up the seeder/fertilizer thrower. I used wire brush grinder to remove and smooth out all of the rust. I had to clean and adjust the window doors and scrape off the old caked on grease. I ended up breaking off one of the grease zerks trying to tighten it and had to use an easy out tool to remove it. Mr Professional put it on the tractor and greased it all up while I was off buying farm supplies.

We had a long discussion about needed supplies and since the price of fuel, spray, fertilizer and seed has jumped dramatically this last three weeks we felt it was best to get it all now. I have to say that I had plans to hold off on some of these items as I was going to purchase them over the entire year. I went to Pendleton and bought railroad ties (entire bundle)- they should be out of them by the end of this week. I bought the very last roll of smooth wire in the store. I bought some woven wire, I only needed one roll but bought two more just in case. I bought enough T posts to redo the fence down by four corners. The gate price had jumped over 20% already so I bought that also. We looked at chemicals to spray on the farm and I picked up the rest I would need for the whole year. I got the tighteners needed for the new fence on four corners. Today I just gave up and bought the ballast box I need for the kubota when using the forks. I also bought another quick hitch category 1 hitch for the Kubota. I bought a chain holder for the tractor also and some bushings for the category one hitch that lets me get away from the pins. I got a speed handle for the Kubota also, they are super nice and the one on the Mistress has been amazing. I just ordered all the lights for the machine shed. Luckily, I already ordered the parts for the baler and now just need to install them.

Unfortunately, this dramatic rise in price of everything means we will be doing a bunch of maintenance on all the equipment. We are going to rewire the flat bed trailer and the horse trailer. I purchased those supplies this weekend also. The fuel tank has been emptied so now I can get it filled with diesel, if only I had done it three weeks ago…

Mr Professional went out and spread about 35# of grass seed onto a few thin spots on field #1. We had a nice light rain last night 8/100” so the seed should be wet and now we just need some warm weather. I need about 5-7 days with no rain and I can plant the last 2 acre field with grass seed and the planting will be done until fall.

I have all the stuff to strip and stain the upstairs doors. But I need to empty off the breeze porch first, tomorrow the child and I will be going through the entire house and removing the giveaway. We may even add to the giveaway pile! My goal is to thin everything pretty hard. I went through two kitchen cupboards today and removed a pile of stuff.

Annmarie found the plans for our future outdoor dining area. We just need to find a used grain bin for sale to tear down and use the components. We also looked at my retirement projects using a welder and a lot of horse shoes! Currently, I think I may be able to make the chicken.

Alpaca addition

We had a thought a couple of weeks ago about adding some more alpaca to our herd. This does require us to be a little selective as we only want males and preferably only unneutered males. This is not because we like or need stud animals, they must merely have the hormones necessary to survive and maintain a spot in the all male testosterone laden fight club. On the plus side they are cheap to buy as they tend to cause problems. So our fiscal requirements match our survival needs and everyone wins. I had reached out to an alpaca farm and gotten a reply and unbeknownst to me, Annmarie had reached out. I got sick last week and gave up on my lead, Annmarie kept after hers as she was going to Salem on Friday already for an event so figured she would be in the area. She found two young alpaca, 3 & 5 years old two hours south of Salem. I merely needed to go with her, drive the pickup, pull the four horse trailer and then drive four hours first thing Saturday morning to go pickup the alpaca in question.

This is where things get a little complicated. What she did not know was that the pickup is dirty, its a farm rig, I had recently taken all of the trash out and emptied it out mostly, but it is not very clean. It is still has straw in the cab from last years haying season. I have had a few issues with the pickup and had been hinting that it may need some work on it. My hints meant that the ABS light is on all of the time now. I am pretty sure its activated all of the time also, one must be careful when using the brakes. The turn signals keep blowing a fuse. The fuse problem seems to only be an issue when a trailer is plugged into the pickup. There is something going on with the transmission. It slips randomly when shifting gears. Luckily, it doesn’t slip once the gear has been engaged but it can take several tries to get it in gear. As an added bonus it is very easy to calculate how many miles to the gallon the pickup gets, its 10 MPG, no matter what, loaded,unloaded, or pulling a trailer it is always 10 MPG. Now this is a bonus as the fuel gage doesn’t work properly. You cannot tell when the last 1/4 tank is getting used up. To further complicate things the positive battery terminal connection keeps getting corroded. This is causing the pickup to not want to start, it feels like the vehicle will not start. The act of turning the key is accompanied by a small prayer and some constant verbal encouragement to get the vehicle to start. The trailer has non working lights, non working brakes and the spare tire has a flat. All in all, pretty standard farm equipment.

I decided that I should try and moderate some of the issues so I cleaned out the passenger side of pickup and back seat. I filled the pickup fuel tank before we left. I had the spare tire on the trailer repaired, stem valve had a leak, and I purchased that metallic reflector tape and placed it all over the horse trailer, on the back and both sides. I also made sure to buy a tire iron as I forgot one when I left the house. I also made sure that I had the new battery terminal part and two crescent wrenches and a standard screwdriver in case I had to tear it apart and replace it because the pickup would not start. I had enough time to fix it in the parking lot while I was waiting for Annmarie to finish teaching but I was unsure what would happen if I disconnected power to everything. I knew what the problems going into the trip were so I did not want to add in any unknowns, this sounded like a totally logical statement at the time.

Once we headed out and got on the freeway it occurred to me that I should have put 2/3 yard of gravel in the pickup bed. Since it gets 10 MPG no matter what the gravel would have helped stabilize the back end of the pickup. The trailer does pull well but hitting rough patches of road is not super fun. I kept it around 65 MPH the entire trip. I also used the cruise control sparingly. I didn’t like the way it towed when I did not have my foot on the gas. Besides, the cruise control failed to set 30 miles from Pendleton when I finally tried to use it on the way home. This is a new thing so I am unsure why this is occurring and it could have just been a one off problem because some times the cruise control buttons can be very finicky.

After the first stop for fuel and the strained sound of a starter barely getting enough juice to turn over I tried very hard not to shut the engine off until we made it to the hotel in Salem. Luckily, they had a very nice large parking area in the rear of the hotel for large vehicles. Now mind you I had to take everything out of the pickup that I did not want stolen as the key does not fit the locks. If the doors get locked I cannot get into the pickup. I overcome this small obstacle by leaving the rear sliding windows unlatched so if needed I can pry them apart with a knife and crawl inside and unlock the doors. Oh and the passenger window can only be lowered and raised by the controls on the passenger door. The ones on the driver door no longer work to control the passenger side. I left some food and water in the pickup in case any homeless explored the vehicle at night. Nothing was taken or removed during our stay in the hotel. I dropped off Annmarie at her event and headed two hours south to get the new alpaca. At the rest stop I barely got the pickup started. So when I had to stop for fuel I bought two bottles of Coke. The pickup battery and I split one. I popped the hood and started to pour small amounts of Coke on the battery terminals in the hope that I could eat up some of the corrosion and the connection would improve. I am unsure if this is the reason that the ”GEN” light kept popping up intermittently as I was driving down the highway. I did this twice on the drive back to pickup Annmarie and when we stopped for fuel in Salem before heading home the pickup started up like there had never been any problem. Thank you Coca Cola!

We discussed the option of buying a new pickup on the drive home. Honestly, I am not real enthusiastic at the proposal. I want to take our current pickup in and get a quote on fixing the ABS, GEN, transmission issue and then seeing if I can get another 60k miles out of it. We only have 161K miles on it and got it around 90K. I am putting less than 10K miles on it annually. We are going to see what the final repair quote is going to be before we make a final determination.

We made it home with out a ticket or a breakdown! Go Farm truck!

The two new alpaca are named Padre and Mad Max. Mad Max is the light colored one and every time you touch him he makes disparaging noises at you. It sounds like he is grumbling nonstop. The Padre is very relaxed and easy going. We let them loose in the orchard field so that they would have a fence separating them from the other alpaca. This morning when we looked out everyone was gathered at the fence line talking to each other. We figure we will let them stay in the pen for a week with just the two of them then we will introduce 2-3 of our old herd and then let them all stay together for another week then we will let them all hang out. The previous owners gave us a book on alpaca’s that Annmarie skimmed on the drive home. Live and let live is our motto and high plains desert living is what they are used to and what they are going to get at our house. They are super soft compared to our animals so we are excited to see what the fiber will be like.