The barn clean out is finally complete, I managed to get it all done yesterday. This is a process that I have been at for a few weeks. The momma/baby area was and is the hardest part to do as it must be done all by hand. I had a thought about ripping out the wooden dividers and gates and taking the large grain bin out which would allow me to clean up that area with a tractor but it has some much added expense. We would need to get about ten more aluminum panels to pen up and divide the momma/babies. Those panels are not nearly as tall but they are always lifted to stay on top of the current depth of matter on the barn floor. The permanent walls have to be pretty high to accommodate the detritus. I will again lament the availability of a teenager to work the summer doing yard work, pulling weeds, digging out the ditch and digging out the barn. I really hope I can find one for next year that likes to do hard manual labor 2-3 days a week all summer long. We are going to let the barn sit empty for another 2-3 weeks then we will toss down bales for the sheep to tear open and spread around on the floor.
We have been talking about getting our septic tank pumped for the last two years. The holdup is on getting the truck into our front yard. The plan was for me to rebuild the bridge and then they could just drive over it. Well in the last two years I have not managed to find the time to do that. But we were starting to get nervous as the tank had not been pumped out in 15 years. The price of materials is very high now and the thought of having to try and replace a drainage field is frightening. So I had two dump truck loads of gravel brought out to the farm and put in the barn lot, a load of 3” and a load of 1.5”. I cleaned up the spring crossing as it is running over basalt outcropping. I had wood and big rocks to get out of the way. I used some of the big rocks to extend the rock wall behind the barn. I placed them all and then covered them with gravel. I then took a small tamping stick and moved the gravel all around to fill in all of the cracks amongst the rocks. The sheep like to play on the rock wall and we don’t want any of them breaking an ankle. I used some of the bigger rocks as a base in the stream bed and then tossed down the 3” rock. I think I could have gotten all of the water to go through the gravel, but it is 3” minus and there were too many smaller rocks. I did manage to get about 80% of the water to flow through the gravel. I spent a few hours getting the crossing all ready for a heavy truck. I called the septic tank company after the Round Up was over. Nothing happens during Round Up and I was super busy at work and did not have the time to spare either, nothing happens during Round Up. I had left large piles of material dug out from the barn on either end of the barn to be cleaned out later. It took me almost a day to clean up the piles of straw, manure and to drag the entire barn lot clean of horse poop. It’s time to start getting things ready for winter.
We need to sort the sheep one more time this summer. We need to count the number we have for butchering. I thought we had the right amount sorted. Annmarie thinks I may have shorted us in the last sorting. We have been hearing the coyotes moving nearer to our house at night. This is usually the reason we are short animals.
Annmarie and Donna are still working on taming down the alpaca. They are getting pretty sure of themselves and don’t mind coming and having a look to see if you will let them into the yard and allow them to eat the green grass.
We have decided that it is imperative we get our septic tank pumped. It has been 15 years and it is way past due. Unfortunately, I was not able to get the bridge built this year. I have run out of time and money this year and it will have to be put off for another time. The real problem is the water has worked its way under every single culvert we have across the front spring. The flooding just washes right under them. So we decided to repair the old crossing and improve on it. They used to drive through the spring in the barn lot. It sits on bedrock so the vehicle doesn’t sink when you drive through but the approach was pretty steep and all dirt so with just a little water on it it would become impassable. We ordered up ten yards of 3” gravel and ten yards of 1.5” gravel and had it dumped in the barn lot on Friday. So I spent five hours on Friday cleaning up the area, moving out six loads of driftwood from the flooding and moving large rocks out of the way. I used the biggest rocks to extend the rock wall I am creating behind the barn. I was able to extend the wall another eight feet. I only have about thirty feet left to build. I used the smaller 6-8” rocks in the bed of the waterway then buried them with 3” rock. The rock was not all solid 3”, it had a lot of smaller rock in with it. I think if I had all 3” rock I could have gotten all of the water to run through the rock and none over the top. Now mind you by the time I got the 1.5” rock spread out over the 3” and up both sides of the approaches there is only a little bit of water flowing over the top, most of it is going through the rock bed. We are now ready for the septic pumping truck to drive through the spring. Unfortunately, this is a temporary fix if we have another flood it will wash out the gravel. As soon as I finish digging out the barn, picking up and unloading all of the cow alfalfa I will be going to the far end of the property and working on a flood break right next to the road. I need to stop the flooding from coming down the middle of every upper field. After that I have to start prepping fields for planting. I may have to prep for planting before I do the digging for flooding. Actually, I will have to do the planting first. I did not dig out the barn like I had planned, any excuse to put off digging is always welcome.
I had no more excuses and the barn needs to be dug out. So today I finished digging out the main part of the barn, closed the bottom half of the doors to allow for the wind and heat to pass through the barn easily, allowing the wooden floor to dry out. I have to shut the doors or the horse goes in there, hangs out and poops everywhere. I had to shovel some extra horse poop today as I had not been shutting the doors. The main section of the barn is completed and I have about 60% of the momma/baby area all dug out. I have about 3-4 hours of hand digging left. If I was smart I would rip out the entire momma/baby area and buy another $2k worth of aluminum panels. This would let me clean up almost the entire barn with the tractor and we could make pens on top of the flooring and continue to lift the panels as the material on the floor continued to pile up. It’s more money and currently we are planning a trip overseas, a bridge in the barn lot, finish the office in the old house and remodel the downstairs bathroom so we have plenty of other items to spend our money on.
The little white alpaca is going to live, I think. The wound looks a ton better than it did when we started. It is about 50% healed at this point and I was able to find some 4” Medipore tape that will stick to the hair on the alpaca! So now I can keep a dressing on the wound and not have to dig dried dirt and mud out of the wound every evening. I only found three maggots yesterday. I am having to cut away the dead tissue with a razor knife. The edges got hard and scabby and the wound didn’t want to heal so I have been trimming those off and the edges are now starting to heal. The alpaca does not particularly like this process. We tie it to the corral and use the hose to get it all clean. It is much easier to do with two people. I had to do it one night alone and it was harder. Annmarie will be gone several days this week so I will be doing it alone. I am hopeful that the wound will be healed in a week.
Annmarie spotted a small calf down with our main herd by the schoolhouse four days ago. We looked again yesterday and it looks like one of our cows had twins! They were both running around and playing. So now we will need to run the cows back up to the barn and sorting chute and tag and band the calves. We want to swap the main herd to the other end of the farm as there is more food above the house than below.
I spent most of the weekend working on the barn. It needs to have all of last year’s sheep excrement and straw dug out. I was unable to get a teenager to work for me for the summer. No one is real keen on lots of weed pulling, lawn mowing, weed eating, ditch digging, barn digging and chicken coop cleaning. It’s too bad, the wages are decent and a hard days labor is good for the soul. Since no one else did it, I needed to do it. I used the John Deere tractor as it is small enough to maneuver inside the barn. After the manure forks are attached to the bucket it is not too bad. I have most of the barn dug out after about 13 total hours. I have only hand digging left to do. I use the tractor bucket as the wheelbarrow and just fill it with a pitchfork and shovel. After a few hours on the tractor and smelling like ammonia it is time to do something else. I came in on Sunday and just wanted to lay down on the floor in the laundry room and take a nap after spending five hours in the barn. I tried to nap but the smell of ammonia was so overpowering from my clothes I finally had to strip and shower. I never did get that nap. I wired outlets in the old house, another 13 done. I have one wire to pull down from the ceiling and I will install the track lighting next. The goal is to get power to the building in the next six weeks so the heat pump can be installed.
We also spent about half a day over the weekend cleaning house. There is still a lot of paint dust laying around on every object in the kitchen. On Tuesday, the housekeeper came out and wiped down the entire kitchen so the dust is now gone.
The puppy, Chance, is painful. Yes she is very cute, I love the droopy ear on the right side but she thinks she can jump on you and the furniture nonstop. She does know she is not supposed to some of the time but takes constant reminders to maintain good behavior. If she gets out the front gate she does not want to come back to the house. Packing a 25# puppy over 300 yards is not fun.
Today Annmarie called me to tell me that one of the young alpaca was bleeding and his wound needed to be addressed today. No one had noticed anything amiss prior to this. Annmarie opened the front yard gate and pushed the alpaca toward it, like a curious cat, they all ran for the open gate to see what was on the other side. When I got home we went to get a halter for the alpaca and discovered the horse was panting and drooling. Her tongue was about twice its normal size. She has been in the barn lot for weeks so we are unsure what happened. She was able to eat food and she refused water so we will keep watching her. After we caught the baby white alpaca I proceeded to try and clean off the wound to see what type of injury there was. There were a lot of flies, a lot of maggots and a lot of caked on dirt all over the wound and in it. I cleaned it with a little bit of water to make sure there would not be a lot of bleeding if I opened up the wound. I turned on the hose and started to clean the surrounding tissue of dirt, maggots and dead tissue. It took about 15 minutes to get the wound all cleaned out. I finally had to use my pocket knife to dig out maggots in three places as they had tunneled enough I could not get them with my fingers. I cut away some dead tissue. The wound is about 1.5” wide and 5” long and about 3/4” deep in places. It has been there for a while but didn’t start to bleed until last couple of days due to maggots getting to a blood laden area. We doused it with betadine then used some antibiotic spray, nonabsorbent dressing and some Coban around the top of the leg where the wound was located. The injured alpaca and Snoop (buddy) will be living in the corral for a couple of weeks to allow us to treat the wound daily. If the wound starts to tunnel bad we will just put the alpaca down so it does not suffer. Otherwise, we will try and get the wound to heal. We will see what it looks like tomorrow.
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.
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.