Vacation work, best kind

We actually took a vacation and left the farm for a week! Sarah stayed home and took care of the Border Collies and my mother took Gizmo home with her so he could get a daily Hill’s hot dog for dinner every night at 1600. She says he is not spoiled but he only weighs 11#, that is a lot of hot dog!

While we were gone Mr Professional changed out my car door that was damaged by the deer. Unfortunately, a 2012 Ford Focus is not worth a lot of money and the cost to repair it was more than the car was worth. I was able to purchase a junkyard door, courtesy of an old Rob’s Speedy Delivery vehicle in the junkyard, and a new mirror. Mr Professional reused the interior door panel and my door handle. It works great, it is a little jarring on appearances but functionality is 100% so I am going with that standard. My goal is for me to hold out for at least another 3-4 years before I need to replace my car.

Mr Rainman came out also while we were gone and started cleaning out the barn. This is usually a 40+ hour thing and takes a couple of people. After two days he is almost done!! I could not believe how much he had gotten out. I am going to attribute it to our dry spring and not having 65 ewes in the barn. He has a few hours left and he will be done. Now that the bucket controls on the tractor are repaired he should have no trouble finishing up in one day. I am going to save cleaning out the chicken coop for Mr I Need a Belt Bad, I don’t want to deprive him of the experience. It is a character building endeavor, plus you have to wear an N95 mask the entire time.

Boring is necessary

I had lots of help on Saturday, Mr I Need a Belt Bad and Mr Professional came out. Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I helped Annmarie sort sheep first thing in the morning. We had the sheep in the barn first then set up the gates. It’s easier if we do the gates first but the simple fact is using the gates and sorting chute is one of the best decisions we have made when it comes to raising sheep. It doesn’t take up much space and we can sort them whenever we need. We never want to sort the sheep, its always a need. We needed to sort off more lambs that were over 90 days old. We got 18 more pulled off and even managed to mark three of the little girls as savers and future breeders for us, they are incredibly calm. We proceeded to push them through the front hillside and over into the orchard pasture. This would have gone smoother if Mouse had not decided that he knew how to herd sheep better than Annmarie’s directions and just as they neared the gate he broke and rushed in. There was some chasing of a particular sheep and yelling and some creative word play. On the next attempt the dogs listened and the sheep went through the gate. This all leads to the necessity of a woven fence on top of our rock wall to keep the sheep out of the yard. We also want to keep the dogs out of our yard so we can get a no hole yard. This whole process only took one hour. It used to take around 2-3 hours before the chute and then you had to chase the sheep around the barn and dive on them or catch them mid air when they tried to leap away. It was entertaining but a lot more work and we are not getting any younger. Our ram is starting to lose weight and it looks like some of our ewes are pregnant. We hope so as he only has one job.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I then stayed in the barn and proceeded to get it ready for hay. We did this by putting all of the netting and hay string into empty 50# feed bags and tossing them into the back of the pickup. The dumpster is still on the property and got emptied Friday so it needs to be filled again. I was hoping that I could be done with one more week but after emptying two hay rooms and picking up all of the netting and more buried twine we filled the entire dumpster with the addition of all of the feed bags from the chicken coop. I still have a lot of items in the old house that need to be round filed so the dumpster will have to stay for one more week to get filled for the last time, a total of 6 yards of trash will have been removed from the farm. I sure am glad we have weekly trash service. Once we had all of the trash corralled we went into the barn and reorganized some wood. I had built a loft over the sheep feeding area and had been storing wood on it. We reorganized the room over the tack room and then moved and restacked all of the lumber except the 1×12 boards into that room. I used the 1×12 boards to toss down and cover some of the holes in the decking. We are going to start haying soon and we have a couple acres of cheat grass. The flood ruined a couple of the fields and now there is a lot of cheat grass. I just about had it under control in a couple of fields and it is back. So we are going to hay it and use it for bedding. The bales will be stored up on the walkway and you will be able to just cut them open and dump them off the walkway. The sheep will break them up and spread them out. It’s a great use for them and stops me from having to buy straw. It also lets me work out any kinks in the baling process before I get to the good grass. Practice is essential as we have only used it for one year. When it comes time to clean out the barn I need to open up all of the doors and use the leaf blower to blow the dust off of everything. I will need goggles and an N95 mask for that as it will be very dirty and dusty.

Mr Professional arrived and started to work on getting the lawn mower running, he had it fired up in no time and started in on the lawn. Mr I Need a Belt Bad went to the back garden to weed for the second time. All of the grass that he missed last week had gotten some rain, sun and some extra room to grow. It had taken off and he was able to knock it down one more time. I will mix a little Roundup now and keep it in a little one gallon hand pump sprayer. I used it every 1-2 weeks to knock down the grass instead of having to pull weeds all the time. Weeding sucks. While they did that I finished spray painting another three metal gates. If I waited much longer the rust was going to become much worse. Mr Professional fired up the weed eater and I knocked down an especially tall spot in the yard then proceeded to weed eat the berry garden. Once we had it down, we went around to each plant and pulled out the weeds by hand to create a weed free zone around each berry bush. I may even plant some blueberries as well as the berry garden is doing. I am going to bring over our large water trough and get it set up for strawberries. This will keep them from spreading all over the place. We do have a mole out there and I am going to have to set a trap. We tried to find the entrance hole but couldn’t find it. So all of the mounds got spread out so I can decide wear to set the trap.

Mr Professional and I set up my Christmas present and I now have two targets mounted on the hillside at 100 yards. Now to see if the sheep will leave them alone. I was able to use the rangefinder to figure out how far objects on the hillside were, 150-200 yards. The side by side had a flat front tire so we took it off and I will get it fixed this week. The tractor is the key piece of equipment that is missing. As soon as it comes the sickle bar mower needs to get attached and fired up to do a job.

Forever Friday, 6/42

I have not yet managed to make myself post every day, I keep getting closer but I am thinking every two days maximum should keep everyone up to date. On this lovely day 6 of my 42 Forever Fridays I decided to catch up for the last two days. I did not get any farm work done as my volunteer job needed me to spend the day doing it. Annmarie did hear the sheep out front, not where they should be, and lo and behold they were out. The sheep had come through the gate down by my mother in law’s house. This gate was magically open. You scoff? This really does happen! The gate was discovered and closed before the cows got out. I chased the sheep into the barn lot and shut that gate so now they can spend some time with the horses. I am not sure that the horses will appreciate these food competitors.

We have been trying to figure out where Zeke has been sneaking out of the yard. Annmarie was convinced he was still going through the spring crossing by getting down in the water and going under the fence. I was certain this was not so as we fixed the water crossings after the flood this spring. My money was on the spot just behind the trash can outhouse building. I did not carry the woven wire all the way to the building. There was a four foot gap and I was sure he was getting through at this spot, not sure enough to fix said spot though. Annmarie had some shoes she needed to drop off at her mothers and Zeke cannot resist sneaking out of the yard if she stops to visit. So I went upstairs to the breeze porch to watch. Zeke was in the yard watching her from the bridge until the car slowed down and parked at her mothers. He bolted across the bridge and was through the fence before I could blink! I ran downstairs immediately and he had already made it all the way down to Annmarie in that time! I called him back, told him he was busted. I tossed some woven wire over the fence today to be installed soon to stop the escape artist for a few more months until he finds the next weak spot.

I had two new candidates come out to the farm today for some indoctrination into the wonders of farm life. They are brothers and their mother dropped them off with lots of water and food to make it through the day. It usually takes me all day on day 1 to choose a Knick name for most of my helpers. It serves two purposes, it amuses me and it helps keep their privacy. The first one is why I started it but the second one is what I tell everyone! The plan was to have the barn done in four hours and then spend the rest of the time working on the barn lot fence, fixing flood damage.

I split them up immediately, this is a hard knocks learned thing, unless you want to listen to two teenagers bicker incessantly, always divide up the siblings. One worked on the momma/baby area and the other worked on the opposite end of the barn, basically not even possible to split them up any more and still be in the same building. I had to give a few lessons in how to use a pitchfork to get under the sheep excrement concoction and then how to use the shovel as a chisel to break up the cemented dry poop/straw combo off of the floor. It is much more efficient if you use the tools correctly, both parties needed a few different teaching moments. I had my first knickname within an hour of starting. Mr Nose was standing on top of a four foot pile of excrement concoction holding his nose trying to kick the pile out of the back door of the barn. The door is five feet in the air and I was moving the outside pile with the tractor over to the compost pile. I finally had to give Mr Nose instructions to not reach into the pile with bare hands as the pile was steaming. Once we start moving the poop it gets turned and loosened and starts to heat up immediately. Inside the barn it is so compacted that it doesn’t get a lot of oxygen so It never really heats up. This is the reason that once I start in on the barn it has to be completed quickly. Later I taught Mr Nose to use a metal rake, long strokes not 12 inches at a time.

I went to help the other sibling finish the momma/baby area, he had done 1/3 so far so the two of us finished the other 2/3. I am over three times his age and he had to work to keep up. The older I get the more I understand old codger jokes and their criticisms. We finished the barn at lunch time an hour over my four hour goal. Not bad, if you add up the 15 hours today to the 14 I had it only took 29 hours to clean out the barn! It will really take 30 as I have one more pile to move with the tractor but 30 hours is amazing and over 50% decrease in time over last year. I spent their lunch moving poop then we moved some of the new blocks we just got a couple of weeks ago. The plan is to line the bottom of the spring with blocks and the side with blocks and create a weed free, clean drinking area for the animals in the barn lot. During this block move I had two phone calls, hence the second knickname Mr Ears. One of the boys has very good hearing and was very interested to know with whom I was talking. He kept thinking it was his mother. I knew that no bones were sticking out, no uncontrolled bleeding was occurring and all four extremities were still moving, they were golden! No mom call was needed. He did not know this, but he did ask what I did for a living but I don’t think it sunk in. 90 blocks later all the blocks were moved and Ears and Nose had to restack the block pile as they kept trying to pull from the top ones and not get the ones off the bottom of the pile. I made them use the whole stack and then neaten up the pile when we were done.

Mr Ears and I pulled all of the old fencing out of the spring after we all cut apart the fences. I cleaned up the creek with the tractor where I could and we ended up cleaning up the barn lot area. Mr Nose was getting tired and had to be given tasks to keep him on point. I had him filling holes with water for a couple of hours. I need to be able to drill holes with the tractor but the ground is too hard. The water is a necessity to soften the ground. The garter snakes were out in force, we spotted five snakes and Mr Nose claims that one tried to bite him when he came across the culvert crossing. I think he stepped on its tail.

I had to leave early to go pickup an antique chair we purchased a few months ago. The boys walked around the farm out by the machine shed and picked up scrap metal and twine for an hour. I didn’t check how they did but I am sure it needs a couple more hours. I have spent at least an hour this week just pulling scrap metal out of the ground that keeps growing around the outbuildings. I am hoping that they come back again as we got a lot accomplished. I think it is possible for two of us to get all the blocks in place tomorrow if I have help.

Forever Friday, day 3 of 42

I am loving this concept of a forever Friday, maybe this is what retirement feels like? I am sure it is not retirement as I would have different concerns and not as many deadlines. However due to the nature of Covid crisis I am home all the time with my lovely bride. We don’t quite have the same vision for my Forever Fridays. This has caused me to consider doing a count down until I return to work. I know have much more sympathy with people who have had their spouses and children home with them for months on end. On the plus side I have decided that 42 days is enough to grow my beard back! Since I am not at work I can have the beard!! So it is coming in quite nicely although it appears to be grayer than the last time I had one in January.

On Sunday I spent four hours on the tractor digging out the barn. I even started to push some out the far end so I can go around with the tractor and pick it up easily. I have spent a total of 10 hours digging out the barn with the new manure forks and I am making great progress. I was spending 40 hours paying someone and another 40 to pickup the piles that were outside the barn. Using just the bucket the piles I could move were pretty small. I am only 12% of the way there and have about 60% of the barn dug out already. So the $250 spent for the manure forks was pure genius and something I should have done years ago. This means that the pallet forks for my tractor are coming very soon!! I can get a fork/hay spike combo attachment for my bucket for around $700. The bucket comes off and this platform attaches via the quick attachment points.

After I dug out the hay I decided to work on the manure spreader. I cannot get that one frozen bearing loose. I have tried multiple things and am now focused on pulling the bearing off and replacing it. I tried to punch out the gear pin and broke two pin punches. I got the pin about 1/3 of the way out but it is being mighty stubborn. I have filled the pin hole with lubricant/penetrant and ordered more pin punches. I am going to use a bigger hammer next time! Some nice strong determined blows with the appropriate verbal coaching should do the trick. I will swing by every day and use penetrant until my pin punches show up.

See there is a floor underneath all of that straw and manure, it just takes some effort to get there. On Monday (4/42), I decided to finally fix the front gate. It can no longer latch as the pressure treated 4×4 has decided to crack open right where the hinges are located causing the hinges bolts to sag. This has been a problem for about two months and since I now have a welder Annmarie has decided that there is very little that cannot be fixed on the farm. Unbeknownst to Annmarie I need some metal to make things and I need some small indoor storage space for metal. I have started to collect all the dug up scrap I am finding and keeping it in one place so I can dig through the scraps and find usable pieces. I dug a piece of angle iron out of the ground and drilled three holes and ground it off and ground in a V-shape to stabilize the bottom hinge bolt and then bolted it in place. Our front gate now actually swings and latches again.

I spent another four hours digging sheep poop out of the barn for a total of 14 hours so far. I have the entire feeding area cleaned up and I think I can can be done in four more hours with some help. I have two new raw recruits coming on Wednesday morning at 0700 to help with the barn. I want to get the barn totally done and get the fence area all cleaned up in the barn lot so we can start rebuilding it.