Posts are mostly in the ground

Hoss came out today and we worked on setting posts. Now Annmarie got back yesterday and her list was quite a bit different than mine. Since I needed to get him started we opted for loading up the back of the pickup with gravel and driving up to set posts. I set all my wooden posts in gravel now and tamp it down with a metal breaker bar. The breaker bar weighs ten pounds and it is painful to use but the post is solid when I am done. We dug out dirt then placed the posts, I had forgotten my level so Hoss reminded me to use my IPhone with an app. Yep, it worked and all the posts got set without us having to make a special trip back for an old fashioned level.

On the 18th post, second load of gravel, my left forearm started to cramp. I was using the breaker bar and Hoss was shoveling gravel. We started alternating early on as the poor guy doing breaker bar is working a lot harder than the shovel guy. My forearm just said “we are done” and would not allow me to use the breaker bar anymore. So instead we went back down to the barn to do something else. Hoss was going to be here till 1600 so I might as well keep him busy.

I had fixed the crossing on Friday where the sheep were getting out. I really just need to move the fence line and take the water crossing out of the equation. It will take a solid 8 hours to tear out the old fence and install the new one. It’s on the list but not as high as the two upper fields.

We came down and fixed the barn floor. I took a saw and ripped off two inches in width off of the last board to be installed and we dropped it down into the opening. It left a 1/2″ gap on either side of the board but no lambs foot should be able to fall through. We then brought all the sorting chutes back into the barn and installed them. Since we were on a roll we tossed out fresh straw and cleaned up the milking area. We even made a trash run and cleaned out the trash. I have some trash left in the tack room still that will need to go out. I need to buy some large nails to install over by the windows so our temporary panels can hang neatly.

Annmarie had to bummer one of the new lambs last night. We are pretty sure its from our #1 ewe. She is our oldest herd member and she is skeletal thin after delivering twins. She just doesn’t pay close enough attention to the new lambs. The one Annmarie had to remove just couldn’t keep up. Her other lamb is tougher and more active so it manages to keep up with her. I don’t think she will live another year. We wandered the orchard and found another single lamb that had been born. I shared my cherries with the sheep and soon had 20 of them following me around the orchard. Annmarie was able to scratch on the ram after he came over looking for some attention. He is our second best ram ever.

Barn Blues

I have been having Hoss work on the barn during the week. He usually comes out first thing in the morning and works until it gets hot. He has been digging out the barn with the tractor and by hand. I put in an hour or two after work but I am the one who tore up the barn floor with the tractor. There has been a few boards buckling near the back of the barn. I almost had to rip them out last year and reattach them to the floor braces. After I let the floor dry out they lowered themselves and I opted to leave them alone for another year. Now that I have ripped one out of the floor with the tractor I will have to pull up four rows, clean them all up, clean up the loose poop and then attach three rows Once I am down to one board only I can measure and custom cut it to fit the gap. The floor is tongue and groove and I did not leave any gaps so there is not a lot of movement allowed in the floor. On Wednesday when I went out to the barn for an impact driver I spotted a large pile of poop up against the wall below. I was just starting on Annmarie’s list of to do and thought that a few minutes with the mistress would do me good. So I climbed up onto the tractor and started to scoop up some poop.

Holy smokes! The pile was hot! It was steaming and the temperature was over 80 degrees. I ended up having to scoop up the entire pile at the end of the barn. The 8 inches of rain in one month we had caused us to have more moisture in the barn than is normal. When you dig up the floor with the tractor and leave it in a loose pile you aerate it. Once it gets oxygen with that much heat and moisture the composting process went into overdrive. So now the race is on to empty the barn. The only nice thing is the undisturbed floor/straw manure layer is so dense it doesn’t get a lot of oxygen so its not heating up. It just smells horrible when you disturb it. Hoss has marching orders to finish the barn up this week. It only needs about 6 more hours to be complete. Once it is empty we will let it sit for a couple of weeks then put all of the sorting chutes back inside. We will need to count sheep this month so our buyer will know how many we are selling. We are not even sure how many we are selling until we count them and get a feel for how big they are. He wants them on the bigger size so it limits the number we have available.

It rained 1/10″ on Wednesday. I had the lawn almost mowed but the rain put a temporary halt to my efforts. Running the mower for 3 minutes then taking 3 more minutes to empty the bag and restart the mower makes it very tedious. I would like it to rain one to two more days that much so our hay fields green up a second time.

I found this freeloader on the plywood sheets on the old house porch. I let it go under the bridge, hopefully it will survive.

Hoss disturbed one of the swallow nests in the rafters of the barn by driving in and out of the barn. The nest fell off the 2×6 it was hanging onto and the nest had baby birds. He spent ten minutes catching all the baby birds running around on the floor and put them and the nest up on the ledge inside the barn. When he came back the next day the only thing he found was a pile of feathers! One of the barn kitties probably had a bird snack after he left.

I am going to live

I have had the plague for the last week and the sleeping and feeling horrible is making me inactive. I hate it but luckily Hoss has already started in on the barn. He emptied it out and is now digging it out. He took everything out! It does make it easier to clean but I had a couple of panels screwed to the wall so he had to work at it.

Yesterday I just could not stand staying inside any longer. I saddled up the mistress and we went into the barn and tore it up! I was only able to last 1.5 hours before I wilted but I did a bunch of stuff in that time. I went in and showered and just laid on the couch until bedtime.

Today I went out and worked on mowing the lawn. I had to repair the mower first, it needed the keep run handle cable replaced. I had purchased this part last year and installed it today. Here is the real problem, its 2″ too long. I reread the tag and yes I have the part for my tractor. I ended up cutting the cable and using my high tension fencing splicing tools to put it back together. It worked just fine, but boy I wish the parts fit like expected. I mowed half the lawn then mowed the front hillside.

Gizmo thinks the new wood window casings are made just for him to lay about in the sun. He is not shy about scooting out and making his own space amongst the glass insulators. I used to space them out evenly but he kept knocking them over and moving them around so now they stay grouped together.

The front hillside sprinklers are now working! I have one on the very end that is high up in the air that doesn’t work. It’s too high! I will have to do something different.

Nothing got broken

The kids killed it on their hay pickup day and managed to fill the first hay bin room. They moved a bunch but did not finish. Tex underestimated how much was left on the ground. There are 1050 bales to move into the barn. So Hoss came out the next day to finish picking up hay. I had gone to work for a couple of hours to finish stuff and to try not to give everyone the plague. The first load took him 1.5 hours to load and he commented on how long it took to do alone. I kinda chuckled as most of this stuff I have to do alone and it takes 2-3 times as long to do it that way. I told him how to stack it on my way to work. While at work I start getting these frantic texts from Annmarie saying there is an issue at the farm. Hoss sends me a text about an “issue”. I ask for a picture, because really a picture is worth a thousand words.

Annmarie sends me this picture. It could have been so much worse! The trailer is still on the road. It’s sitting on rocks in the front and back so it’s stable. The axle is not bent or pinned on any rocks. The bank just gave away. Now I failed to mention to Hoss to not use this crossing. I knew the rocks were giving way. After the flooding we had this spring they washed out the gravel and created a soft spot. I had filled the gravel twice but realized that the cure is going to be me pouring concrete walls about two feet to either side of the culvert all the way down to the water line. There is no other good fix. I failed to pass on this nugget of information to Hoss or Annmarie. So Hoss started to unload the hay and when I came home we looked at it.

He wanted to get some handyman jacks and lift it up and push it over. I finally looked at it and said we could just use the tractor. I would drive it down to the spring and get the bucket under the tires and push it over onto the road then drive around and pull it out. It only took five minutes once we had it unloaded. Now Hoss will use the other crossing only until we fix this one, which will take a while because cleaning out the barn then building fence are our priorities.

Simple communication could have averted this, one more lesson for me on why I should talk more.

Three musketeers

I have the plague and this is hindering the hay pickup issue. I got Slim and Tex lined up to come out Tuesday morning at 0600 and start picking up hay. I was approached by a friend to see if I needed more help out on the farm on Monday and I decided Monday evening to call them and have them come out Tuesday also. This way I could have Slim drive the tractor and Tex and Hoss could load from each side. While they unloaded hay into the first bay I would have Slim clean out the milking area of the barn and the second hay room as I was sure they would fill the first hay room. I had a plan.

Everyone arrived at 0600 and we spent the first 20 minutes cleaning out the pickup! It was not horrible but it did require some effort and I found a coat and hat I had misplaced in the process. I also think I found a handful of tools that I had misplaced. We tossed out all the trash and even emptied out the bed of the pickup.

I then spent 7 minutes teaching Slim how to drive the tractor, the most important part being always wear your seat belt. I figured she had never pulled a trailer before but going slow and her brother, Tex could give her pointers. Tex and Hoss jumped on the trailer, I went to work and hopefully the hay gets put into the barn magically.

I had to come home early due to the plague, it had gotten hot so they had quit. The first hay room was full and Tex wanted to know how to stack it in the second one. I told him and he said he would come out and finish in the late evening as he was leaving for California tomorrow! I told Tex I would pay him when he finished. He was confident there was only a little over one load left.

Hoss was still here and I walked him around the farm and we discussed him digging out the barn and helping me with some fence for the next couple of months. He was agreeable to this. This was very fortuitous for us.

Tex came out that evening and unloaded two more loads into the barn and said there were at least another 2 loads in the field. He was a tad optimistic.

Till the sun goes down

It has been a long week. Tex got the plague! No man is immune from a good virus, I blame his mother for giving it to him. He was out on the two days needed to ride the baler and put some hay out! So I was going to work, coming straight home, changing clothes, grabbing a quick bite to eat, some water and hitting the fields until dark. It was not all fun and games, there is a definite learning curve to using new equipment and especially when you have never put up hay before. I jammed the thing full a few times and had to dig it out by hand. I backed into a completed bale and caught the string and sucked it up and wrapped it around the guts of the baler. This took a while to get undone. I only sheared one more shear bolt the rest of the week. I would come inside at dark, cleanup and go to bed to wake up and do it again.

Since there are no microbalers in our area, I bought normal haying twine, but it will not fit inside the compartment designed to hold it. So we just set it between the baler and the quick hitch. It didn’t even need strapped down, it would just ride there and pull itself out. We went through ten rolls of baling twine.

One night was spectacular! I had jammed the baler for the third time and just called it quits. I was getting ready to head inside when I noticed the view, it does set things into perspective. It was a good way to end a frustrating day.

Tex finally healed himself and came out to the house on Thursday. We were only about 50 bales from completion and would need a spot to put the bales so we worked on lining one side of the barn with 2×6 boards so that the round bales would not touch the outer walls. I had plans on buying some pretty boards but at the rate we are burning through cash I opted to use some boards that we already had on hand. We used boards left over from building the bull enclosure. Probably a much better deal all around for everyone. We got ten feet into the air and decided to wait on installing the higher boards until we had stacked the hay up to the top board. This would then allow us to just stand on the hay pile and install them without trying to use them as ladders, hold on and then screw them in place. This does require some balance and dexterity and muscles which could be better utilized in stacking hay. Tex jumped onto the tractor and finished out the last of the hay while I ran to town . Slim had come out the day before and knocked down 90% of the grass in our front yard. This was a needed task and at the rate we keep Tex busy neither one of us were going to get to it.

I had Tex hook the hay mower back up and Thursday evening I opted to drive down and start haying down by the school house. Two passes and I heard some loud whine from the drum mower. Now I had just hit a hidden 2” pipe with the mower on the last pass. I discovered that I had ripped off all the blades from one of the drums. All of the bolts were missing! I even managed to find one of the blades. So now I am going to have to order new bolts and blades for the loaner mower. I also had to disconnect the PTO shaft from the mower and dig out all the loose grass that had wrapped around the head and was smoking from the friction. I did mention this is a loaner? I called the place this morning first thing and was told this is their busy season and to be patient they would get back to me. Well they did not get back to me today and I cannot cut any more fields for hay until I get the mower fixed. So tomorrow I will try and order the parts I need and we will see how long it takes them to get to me.

We ended up with 1050 bales that weigh about 45# each, so about 23.5 ton in 8 acres. I have about another 6 acres down by the school house to cut still. We will buy some alfalfa this year and plant two more fields this fall. I am pretty sure we are going to plant 7 acres of Sainfoin and then more grass fields. Our big push now is to pick up all those bales by hand!

Trickle lambs

It looks like a lamb but it is just one of the barn cats! I had to really look when I went to feed and water our “wide as long” ewe. The new barn cat has been hanging out with this ewe for the last couple of weeks. Annmarie spotted the ewe chasing her off a couple of days ago. We are hoping that means she will have her babies soon! They get super protective before and after delivering.

The barn is definitely chaos now when you walking through trying to feed. I shuffle my feet so I can just scoot the lambs out of the way as I head to the feeders. I love this part of having sheep. It is pure chaos and cacophony in the barn. After feeding I usually walk through and snag various lambs to pickup and pet on. The ewes get so tame that you can just walk through and touch everyone. During the summer we will only be able to touch 3-5 as they get very wild running around and free ranging.

Every morning and night we go out expecting babies and are disappointed. I did the night chores on Wednesday at night and checked, no babies. I went out, in the daylight, first thing in the morning Thursday and found a set of twins under the overturned wheelbarrow! The little buggers had hid from me the previous night. I chased the mommas out and noticed that their momma went right to them. She had to have bonded well and fed them well for them to survive outside in 26 F weather. I chased the pregnant mommas back into their area and opened up the area under the stairs. I put food and water in there and chased the momma inside. I had to snag both babies and they tried to run away which is a great sign of their strength. I locked them up and left them. I had noticed that they had nursed already so I was hopeful they would get their sea legs back. Last night they looked great!! We are going to write down the ear tag numbers if either twin is a girl because that is one good momma! The ewe is pretty jumpy, but it is her first set of babies but coming back and owning them after they spent 12 hours outside is amazing. No more babies this morning. The twins looked great, but they are small and I will paste them tonight. I didn’t want to upset the mother. I am going to have to increase the height of one wall under the stairway. the gate on one end is low and I need to raise it. We like this area as a crèche. Normally, it was just sitting unused but this is the second year we have used it and its handy.

The two DeWalt battery work lights are amazing! We now have them at each end of the barn and if you turn them both on the entire barn is lit. We are seriously considering two more, one for each hay room and calling it good. We were talking about installing solar and a 12 V storage system with LED lights throughout the entire barn. That was gonna cost about $2k without labor. For $480 and 4 hours of labor to install mounting spots we can have better than daylight light levels inside the barn.

We are talking about a water storage tank for watering in the winter. The water could come from the roof and a gutter system. This is purely in the discovery phase. I would love to find a 500-1000 gallon water storage tank for fairly inexpensive. I also still need a manure spreader! So keep your eyes out for one, looking for an older one that needs a new floor. I want it to work, but it does not have to be pretty.

Our current numbers are as follows:

1 death

4 bummers

13 singles (39%)

17 twins (52%)

3 triplets (9%)

33 ewes birthed

5 pregnant ewes pending birth

46 lambs dosed, tagged and banded

5 babies dosed only

2 babies undosed

Production rate:

Birthed 185%

On our farm and alive 161%. 150% is great, 125% is bare minimum. We are winning!!