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!

Farm Work was happening

I started out the Sunday by tagging and banding the last two little lambs we had in the barn, a little boy and girl. I then mixed all the sheep together so we don’t have to manage two separate herds. I came in and started working on the bathroom shelves and while outside cutting lumber heard some squawking. I looked around the edge of the house and there was our pretty rooster in the front yard desperately trying to get through the metal fence to get away from the dogs. Unfortunately for him, he is too big to fit between the gaps. I was able to call the Border Collies off but our little ankle biter Brussels Griffin, Gizmo, did not want to leave the chicken and had to be hollered at. I tried to open the gate but that just confused the chicken and ended up just having to reach down and grab him and toss him over the fence. He got lucky and only lost about 30 feathers. I have no idea what he was doing in the yard, the chickens know it is not safe.

I went out to pickup the carcasses and once I got into the barn lot I decided I had better do a couple of things before just getting the carcasses. Annmarie and I had noticed the culvert that did not get repaired was undercutting the bank and drive over path. She was afraid if the horses got out they would try and cross this and fall through potentially braking a leg. So I dug out the old culvert, it took a few tries to get it above ground. I finally had to go clear all the dirt off of the culvert before I could lift it out of the water. I moved that culvert over to the other culvert and will work on getting it set so it takes the water coming out of the crossing and allows it to run down through the culvert and not eat out the bank edges. I will mess with that after the water level goes down some or I won’t mind getting wet.

While I was messing with the culvert I spotted something in the back runoff creek. I wasn’t sure what it was but it looked like an animal carcass. My only thought was I hope it isn’t and if it is then please don’t let it be so decomposed that I cannot just drag it out of the water. I was able to just slide a chain around its neck and pull it out of the water. It had been dead for a few days only so it was still intact mostly. I took it up to the boneyard and then came back for the stillborn lambs, dead lamb and dead alpaca. It smelled bad but managed to stay in one piece while moving it with the tractor. I was eternally grateful that the carcass only smelled a little bit.

While I was dropping off the carcasses I noticed water running in an ancient ditch that has never been there before since we moved back in 2007. I will need to dig out the ditch again and make it a little deeper and give it some consistent shape. I will just have to add it to my list for the year. I am starting to feel better after my run in with Covid19. It has been eight weeks and this was the first weekend I did not notice any chest pain. My hope is that my aerobic ability will improve quickly now.

Alpaca self thinned

I had to go out again this morning and run the tractor over the driveway. The snow just keeps coming down, there is over 18” on the ground. I even went down to the pregnant cows and drug a path through the snow to the water and flattened a spot under a tree. They had already knocked down the snow all around the feeder. I went up to check on the upper feeder cows and had to drag a path out to them. They had about 1/3 of a bale so I went out and broke up a bale and scooped it up a few large flakes at a time. I then drove those out to them and tossed them over the fence. When I was cutting open the large bale I discovered that one of the white alpaca had died last night. It was not even frozen or stiff yet, it was curled up sheltered between two large bales. The alpaca are old and we are going to have to look for a few more this summer. So if you know of someone within 120 miles that wants to get rid of their male alpaca we are willing to pick them up and give them a forever home. Unfortunately, we can only take males as we do not want any cria, no baby alpaca! The snow is so deep I was unable to move the body up to the boneyard. I could not even get it out of the field, the snow was just too deep. So I blocked the gate with the body so I will be able to find it when the snow goes away.

I spent the rest of the day trying to get the bathroom wired with our final choices. I installed all of the push button switches and started in on the outlets. I got the lights in but initially had the sconces turned upward. Annmarie came up and looked at it and stated that we had talked about it before and wanted the scones turned downward. So I went back and fixed them and turned them all downwards. They look better turned downwards! I still have three outlets to wire up before I am done in the bathroom. I do need to install a closet light still.

We have had three more lambs born this week. I will have to update the data soon. We tagged the twins, both girls, and turned them loose into the main herd tonight. Annmarie had told me on Friday that I needed to bring the gloves and come to the barn. The Gloves are shoulder length OB vinyl gloves used to be able to reach up inside the sheep and pull out babies. This is never a good sign. Luckily the mother was not in distress so I did not have to intervene. I dread having to use my nursing skills on the sheep.

Montana snow kit arrived

It is here! Our Montana snow kit has arrived and it is almost the end of Winter. We have had nonstop snow for the last two days and have over 18” of snow on the ground now. Our friend from Montana, Doom, promised to over deliver and under promise when it came to his custom Montana snow kits and he managed to out do himself this year. We are shoveling snow twice a day for the walkway and today I had to break out the tractor and spend two hours clearing the driveway. The snow is getting too deep for Annmarie’s all wheel drive Subaru so I needed to clear a path so we could at least get to the road. They finally plowed our county road today. It is supposed to snow for another 3-5 days then rain for another 3-5 days. It’s going to be a mess and we will probably get flooded again, ugh. Luckily, I expect the new fences I put in to break away instead of bend over like they did last year. I was unable to get the backhoe up to the upper field and redo the ditches that are up there and got washed out last year. This is going to have to happen this year after everything dries out.

When I was out with the tractor I managed to accidentally ran off of the road, tractor slid sideways down a five foot hill. I managed to not roll the tractor and got it to slide down the hill sideways the rest of the way. While I was trying to not roll the tractor I spotted another water leak! I knew there was one as our water pressure had dropped slightly. I am honestly unsure how to solve some of the water leak problems. The last plumbing repair put in a rubber joint to hopefully absorb some of the stress of the pump cycling on and off at the pump outlet. So when the weather warms up I will need to dig the ditch out again and call the plumber. It’s not worth paying the plumber to dig the ditch.

The alpaca just do not care about the weather, Snoop dog has been hanging with the cows and looked miserable with his entire face covered in ice. Annmarie called him over to the gate and I let him through. He rambled up to the machine shed and hid under the overhang to get out of the weather. Within 15 minutes she decided to let the brown alpaca through the gate also so he could get to some food. Before she could get the brown one out of the orchard, Snoop dog ran into the orchard! So he was right back to where he started just back through another gate. The others just wanted to make sure they were near food, the snow and ice just does not bother them.

I got the overhead railing for the bathroom closet door installed and our grate cover for the oven vent outlet hole came. I got them both installed. The snow shoveling has been taking a lot out of me and I have been taking naps, which slows down the process on finishing the bathroom. I did manage to get the final lights brought in from the old house and killed the power to the room so I can get it all wired tomorrow hopefully.

Luckily, we had finished feeding all the cows yesterday before the snow got super deep. My hope is the snow will melt off before I need to feed again.

Fooled me

The old black alpaca fooled me into letting him in through the side gate so he could get back into the orchard. He had been wandering on the back hillside alone for days then came down and sat by the orchard gate. I was out feeding the song birds and he kept hooting and mewing at me until I went over and let him through, Annmarie reminded me that all the gates were open and all he needed to do was just go downstream and walk through them. He was on the back hillside all alone wandering around just like the day before in a matter of hours.

The cows got out of their enclosure on Friday, last week. I spotted them from the living room window. It was almost time to go out and do evening chores but I knew that was too much work for me so I snuck out of the house without telling anyone. I took the dogs and we headed up to get the cows. Annmarie had opened a gate to give them more space and a side gate was open allowing them to get on the back hillside. Zeke and Mouse got them back in the correct field. I only had to walk straight up the bottom field hollering nonstop at the dogs. Mouse works for AnnMarie way better than he does for me but we got it done. When I turned around to come back Annmarie was at the gate watching me and waiting to castigate me for not telling her the cows were out and allowing her to help. I told her the dogs and I were capable of getting the cows in. She still had to do the evening chores and get eggs.
The chewed up chicken croaked. It will now get a trip to the boneyard. I thought it was gonna make it, as they usually die within the first 24 hours.
Mr Professional came out and fed the cows the same day. He even moved the dog house that was still sitting on the trailer to down by my mother-in-law’s. The cats will appreciate is. He put it under the porch in the back yard. I will need to move it around to the side near the back door leading up the stairs, but it will have to wait until I have some energy.