50 yards closer

Yesterday I did not do any hard manual labor, my right elbow hurt too much. I have tendonitis in my elbow and I am trying to rest it and take some Motrin. This is a very slow process to heal it. It aches all the time and we have to go to a dinner for the fire station. Someone will want to shake my hand and inflict terrible pain on my elbow. They did and it happened about three times. I took a walk up the pasture with all three dogs to see if the water was running down by my fence crossing. It was not, it got to the trees and just stopped. I will check it tomorrow. All the dogs wanted to do was eat sheep poop the whole time. Gizmo found something stinky to roll around in that did not stick to him, just the smell.

My mother came out to look at the new floor and we spotted the eagle again. It was sitting in the top of a dead tree staring at the sheep just below it. It stayed there for over 30 minutes before leaving. Hopefully the sheep are old enough and big enough to ward off an attack from the eagle.

Our old hand dug well enclosure is falling apart. I really need to pour it some new walls and build some type of roofed enclosure around it. That needs to happen sooner than later

Tonight when I went out to do chores it was an amazing sunset. Sometimes life can be overwhelming and you just need to step back and realize just how amazing and lucky we are to be alive and on planet Earth. It truly is grounding to see the beauty around us on a daily basis. The older I get the more I appreciate it. Maybe that is my mortality creeping in, who knows. I just know that I have two broody hens who both think sitting on a wooden egg will net them a chick and they are very persistent despite me tossing them out of a nest every night for the last five days.

Mistress & Me

I had some gravel delivered this week, 10 yards of 3/4″- and 1.5″- for use around the farm. We have purchased at least 100 yards of gravel over the years probably closer to 150 yards. I now set all the railroad fence ties in gravel as they are a lot more secure and not as prone to softening in the spring. We were running low and I am thinking about drilling holes in the barn lot to create a pen for the bull and rams so we can start controlling our time of delivery on all babies. The bigger rock is for the road that loops behind the machine shed. The road was always just a dirt path but we have slowly started to gravel it in and build it up. The single most important reason is that is how the garbage man loops around and leaves the property. Trash pickup at our house is a luxury and we want to make it easy for them. We also realize that our weather is changing and we get a lot more rain than we used to, this has caused some drainage issues and access problems. Gravel is a wonderful cure all for a lot of those problems. I spread about 8 yards out onto the dirt path behind the shed. We will give it a couple of months then have some 3/4″- brought in and have them dump it directly over the road. We will be ordering some more panels for our barn to help sort sheep and they will come on a semitruck. Also our new haying equipment will come on a semitruck, access is vital for us to have year round. I took the last two yards and spread it in front of the corral loading chute. We now have year round access to the chute and mud will no longer be an issue. This also happens to be where the mobile slaughter parks and since I moved the gate opening this process should go a lot smoother also. The mistress is doing well. She needs a bath and I still need to bang that dent out of the hood but she is a trooper. I remembered lunch after completing these tasks and then went back out to check on the upper prime pasture. Annmarie told me we had water running into the ditch in it.

Water is my nemesis! We just don’t get along and after Annmarie told me it was running in the upper field I just knew the Mistress and I needed to tackle the next problem. Or in my history, create one involving water.

There was indeed water running in the upper prime pasture. It had gotten to the blackberry bush but was not running any further. I dug out the ditch on our side of the blackberry bush and used it to try and level off the area near the fence there. It is very hard to get the tractor by as the hill is slanted into the bush. I will keep using the soil I dig out of the ditch to level this off. I went down the ditch farther near the hand dug well and dug out a trench in the ditch. The ditch. Is covered in grass and if I dig down about a foot then the water runs faster and it will create a low spot where the animals can drink. We just opened the upper prime pasture to the sheep yesterday. The horses are confined to the barn lot so they cannot fallow on all this fresh new green grass.

I drove up through the upper prime pasture into the next one (still working on a name) and noticed that the water was just starting to run out the end and form a swamp by all appearances this started in the last 1-2 days. I had a trench at one point from the central ditch running across the field to the original spring starting point. This got worked away during the hay growing process. I went in and dig a ditch starting at the spring so there was no water in the ditch I was creating. I built up a berm on one side so we can find it and we will just have to work around the ditch. It is needed as another swamp is not needed if we can avoid it. The spring in the middle of the field is running again. The only way to make a pond here is to line it. I have tried twice and the stream just cuts through the berm or the water gets absorbed. If I put a lining in we could have a little pond up here for about 6 months out of the year, probably enough to get a pair of ducks to stop and have babies. This is a project for a later time. The water coming out of this second spring is almost as much as the first so the downstream load is doubled. I expect this to cause us problems down in the barn lot. We think it may actually start running and eroding another path above ground. We may have to put in a culvert to allow us to cross the water. I am trying to avoid any crossings where we drive through the water. It’s not always possible but with the front spring the water is slow and not crazy, just persistent.

I went up and drug out an old ditch on the wheat side of that same field and then dug it back out. There was a 50 yard section that had filled back in over time. I dug it back out. I think when I rent a backhoe next time I will dig this down another 3 feet. If I can get it lower I think it will help drain the field. I need to finish the fence in this section so we can turn the animals loose in this area to forage and eat it down. I will be keeping it clean and weed free this summer in preparation for planting in the fall. We are going to plant Round up resistant alfalfa.

You can see the first spring starting point above. It looks like a little pond but if you look closely you can see the water bubbling out of the ground and forming a current. Its pretty cool. I kept chasing deer out of the fields and noticed these freeloaders eating the new wheat, almost 40 deer. I drove up to the next field to inspect it. This is one I have not burned yet. This needs to be done soon but it keeps raining and I would like a little wind to fan the fire and drive it across the field. Its wet enough I don’t have to worry about it jumping off the field and going elsewhere.

This is the field where Ted, father-in-law, got buried in his mule in the middle of the summer our first year here. Annmarie tells me stories of burying wheat trucks when driving through it at harvest time. The dark patch is solid water and the lowest spot in the field. You can see the two places I tried to drive out into that area and got stuck in the mud. I had to push myself out with the bucket on the tractor. This is with four wheel drive and I kept the box blade on the back to add weight to the back tires. I want to stake out this area this summer. The plan is dig a shallow area about 18-24 inches deep and drag all that soil to the surrounding area. Then I will build a fence around this area to keep the livestock out and just plant grass in the fenced in area. It will either survive or not. Hopefully, this will contain the water enough that we can use the field. I might look into some marsh plants to plant in this area also. The trouble is it doesn’t hold water year round so it does dry out in late summer/fall. So I am unsure how a marsh plant would fare as it is not truly a marsh. Its just a low spot with a high water table some years.

It has begun!

I am officially on vacation now! I am going no where. It’s a very affordable place, I hear great reviews about it. I will be spending my vacation tiling the downstairs of our house. I have limited it to the hallway, living room and dining room. If we can tear it up and make incredible progress then we will do the kitchen also. The kitchen is going to be painful as we actually have to remove one layer of subfloor and linoleum and work around the cupboards.

There are two of us, I have a helper, we will call him Mr. Experience. This is a novel experience for me as most of my help is fairly naive if not downright virginal when it comes to hands on work. Mr Experience has done construction for a long time and specifically tile and concrete work. This is an amazing change for me. I am not near as stressed doing this project. He is doing all the measuring and cutting of hardiboard and I am doing all the grunt work and screwing in the thousands of screws needed to attach the board to our existing floor.

Day 1 was spent clearing out the downstairs. We used the kitchen, the downstairs library, upstairs spare bedroom and our bedroom to stash all the furniture. The kitchen had to store the couch and the old safe as neither could go upstairs or into the downstairs library. You cannot even get past the door frame into the spare bedroom. It is jammed full of everything. The dogs do not get any more toys! We are officially in a dog toy buying drought. We must of found 30+ toys trapped under the couch and loveseat. I am seriously considering building a square frame that hides under the couch and loveseat that prevents any toy from rolling more than 6 inches under the furniture. It was amazing how many toys were trapped in hidden realms. We left the dining room table but could stash it in the kitchen when we need to as Annmarie is in Berkeley for school for a week. There will never be a better time than now to jam everything into the kitchen. I just need to be able to get to the fridge, stove and microwave. Access to the sink is crucial as that is where water for the coffee maker comes from! I have to keep up a steady stream of coffee to survive. The second half of the day was spent driving to the Big Box hardware store for the needed supplies.

This note about my chickens was on the fridge when I got back. It seems the housekeeper was looking out the window as our younger border collie was barking at the tree. She looked up into the tree just in time to see the eagle swoop down and go for my chickens! Luckily, the chickens had been warned and were scattering when the eagle dive bombed them. It tried for them one more time. “Everything loves chicken”! We may have to put a mesh cover over the chicken yard. I was told they may be nesting in the upper prime field in the top of the trees. We will see, I have not noticed a nest up there recently, but honestly, I have not been looking for an eagle nest.

Day 2 was spent cutting subfloor to fill in the gaps and level off the floor so we could lay Hardiboard down. I love Hardiboard for all tile underlayment except for in bathrooms. I will always use Wonderboard when it calls for a wet enclosure. We did get a few pieces of underlayment laid and screwed down. This is really confusing the dogs as they are unsure where to lay or sleep.

Day 3 is today, we laid more subfloor. The only room left to install subfloor in is the dining room. We also floated in all the subfloor that had mismatched heights so we have a solid base to install the Hardiboard onto. This is very nice and we are cutting the seams to utilize full sheets and move the joints away from high traffic regions. It is amazing how much stiffer and firmer the floor is with just a new subfloor. We called it an early day so Mr Experience could do other things and I do recognize that other people do have lives. I would kill it until 2300 every night if I could. But with Annmarie back in school and back teaching I have to do the morning and evening chores so my remodel time gets interrupted. I become totally focused and obsessed with finishing the project. It makes her crazy but the project is getting completed so she tries to limit her feedback. The goal is to start laying tile tomorrow by early afternoon.

Help is always welcome

Three years ago my little sister, Chris came home to visit for the holidays and we had her out to the house. This year she came home for a White Christmas! A fairly spectacular one at that and she came out on Saturday to see the baby sheep. We always take the opportunity to tag and band when people come out to visit the lambs. This necessitates someone holding the smallest lambs after we catch them. Annmarie does all the catching as I am the designated tagger and bander. I am the Bander, controller of the Banderator, the rubber miracle delivery device. It has four little prongs that when you squeeze the handle it spreads the prongs apart creating an opening in the center of the very small rubber band. I use two rubber bands always now after a previous early learning experience where we ended up with several rams. The real problem is it does take some hand strength to stretch the rubber bands and to put the tag through their ears. You have to miss the blood vessel running down the middle of their ear. There are times I have a sneaking suspicion that Annmarie could do it but this way she doesn’t have to inflict pain upon the lambies. Chris enjoyed holding and cuddling with the lambs. Even after years of doing this there is nothing quite like snagging 1-3 day old lamb and snuggling with it. It is a guaranteed stress reliever.

On our drive out to the farm we spotted a huge Bald Eagle soaring over the property. They are beautiful birds and we usually see them once or twice a year passing through. I casually mentioned to Annmarie that I would not mind them sticking around. She then reminded me of Rule #2 to live by “Everything loves Chicken!”. This could cause me problems so I am currently torn over this dream. I wanted peacocks but they are loud and scream “help me” in a woman’s voice at the most inopportune time, so now I want Bald Eagles.

I had to go down and feed the cows a new bale and found a dead calf. Now I had just been down with the cows three days prior and had seen no calf. This one looks like it was still born. I tossed it in into the tractor bucket and then drove to the barn and got the two deceased lambs that had been on deep chill in the snow before it melted the day before. I drove them all up to the boneyard and found that there was a 10 foot cleared circle beaten down into the ground where the ram parts had been. There was not a single body part left of that ram! Were it not for the beaten down circle I never would have known where I tossed his carcass a week prior. We have not seen a single coyote. We hear them all the time but none have come within sight of the house in months. Its not safe for them and they know it. Santa brought me a coyote call in my stocking. I need to try it out. Chris spent some time spoiling our Border Collies and trying to get Gizmo to like her. She did make progress on the Gizmo front. He is not super people friendly. She made better progress with the collies!