Spring is here, finally

I had big plans to get stuff done this weekend but you only have so much time in a day. On top of that its Easter weekend so we have a family dinner during the day and I don’t do any work. I know its not very common for me but I do take a day off occasionally. Since the beef needed to be cut up that occupied all of Friday. It took about ten hours to cut it and wrap it all, that included the clean up time at the end which is essential or the entire house will continue to smell like raw meat. The meat is incredibly pale and Mr Professional and I had steak, eggs and toast for dinner and it was amazing. Annmarie is busy all week with Easter and helped for a couple of hours before having to go into church. Our biggest problem is the two freezers are full! I had to move a lot of stuff around to make room for the unexpected beef. We filled the tractor bucket with all of the bones. Mr Professional was out after dark putting stuff in the pickup and heard a commotion at the tractor, the cats had figured out where we were piling the scraps! We have two cats living in the machine shed, we must need a few more since the mice got into the air intake on our side by side.

The side by side was ready to spray so I got moving early on Saturday and was out spraying weeds by 0830. I realize that this is not especially early but I did cook breakfast, sausage and waffles, first and then had to drop the panels over the back creek to keep the sheep near the house. We wanted them to be able to go up on the back hillside and eat. For two reasons, one the grass is growing and two they are eating lots of hay. Due to the changes in the creek banks from last years flooding I had to cut the panels to fit as they would no longer occlude the opening like they used to. While Annmarie was letting the sheep out onto the back hillside she asked me if I could see Big Brown, our old ewe. I did not spot her, but once Annmarie came into the yard she reminded me we put her into the orchard with the weanlings to give them some direction. We chuckled as both of us had forgotten this detail. Once that was done, I went out and sprayed. Our side by side has a 50 gallon tank on it and when it is full it makes steering the side by side very hard. The front tires are not really gripping the ground very well and any turn takes twice the normal radius. I need to get the welder up and going so I can make some tractor weight holders to mount on the front of the vehicle. This should help the steering immensely. I sprayed the orchard first by just spot spraying with the wand. It didn’t need the entire field but it did have some patches of thistles that needed to be killed. I found the old Big Brown ewe dead over by the far gate. She had died in the last 24 hours. I finished spraying out the first load of spray then went and picked up Mr Professional. He took the beef bones and Big Brown ewe up to the boneyard.

Once he came back from the boneyard and saw all the green grass and the flood damage he wanted to start planting the bare spots. I told him nope, the plan for the day was to spray weeds and finish the bathroom, nothing else!! We cannot get distracted, there is a lot to do and limited time to do it. We must prioritize or the necessary things will not get done. This is the sole reason to keep a running list of to do’s and keep juggling their priority. He finished installing the four boards in the bathroom and rehung the sliding door so it opens and closes correctly and stays shut. I did not have it level.

I managed to spray all of our upper field, #1 including the fence lines and the ditch. I even managed to get 1/2 of field number 2 sprayed. I also sprayed the triangle near the wheat fields that is a breeding ground for thistles. At one point I overfilled the tank and even managed to spray all the area behind the grain bins. The side by side really needs a ring job, it is burning lots of oil. Before the engine got warmed up I thought I could merely drive over the weeds and smoke them to death. I was getting ready for tank number four when all of a sudden our power went out. Mr Professional was upstairs and hollered to look at the power line, it was waving back and forth. Our up stream neighbor was having some trees cut down. So we drove up there to check and sure enough they dumped a tree on the power line but had no cell service, we drove back down th road until we got service and called the power company around 1330. We did not get power back until around 2315 last night. Before the power company was done they had 3-4 vehicles and a backhoe out there and ended up having to replace a power pole.

Since we had no power, Mr Professional and I went out to work on stringing up the new fence line that runs along the edge of the wheat field. I now use the 5000 foot bailing string to run fence lines and it is the best! We used the T-post tractor pusher to set the T posts, it is the slickest thing ever. We put a few extra right by the horse’s resting area so no one runs over it.

The sheep had gone down to the schoolhouse. My fence repair was supposed to stop that, but fixing the fence does no good when you leave the gate open! Luckily the sheep put themselves onto the back hillside with no prompting and the gate just had to be shut. They even came down and slept behind the barn last night with no prompting! As always, when the sun is out shining it is hard to tell a live alpaca from a dead one.

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!

Bathroom closing in on the finish line

A life altering event occurred this week, our plumber came! We have the best plumber in the county and I asked him, when I came home to help get the toilet upstairs, when he was going to retire? He said this was his last year. I hope it is for him, its time to rest and get some things done around the house. He spent a couple of days plumbing our bathroom. We got an all inclusive toilet, it is cast as one piece and is smooth on the outside so its easy to clean! He sweats all the copper fittings so I will never be able to repair it, it am just not a very good plumber but in 13 years he has only ever had one thing leak. We even have a main house water shutoff inside the house so you don’t even have to go outside to shut off the water main. I asked for and got a water faucet on the side of the bathroom vanity. I will be attaching a water hose for my inside plants, no more filling one gallon containers to water my plants. I use 4-5 gallons of water a week. I have a lot of plants on the breeze porch. The only thing he did not get done was the drain for our sink, he had to order a matching part to go with our faucet. It will hopefully be here in the next 1-2 weeks. We are waiting to use the bathroom until I get it finished.

Our new stained glass windows came this week also. We had purchased one on the Oregon coast and I liked it so much I talked Annmarie into a second one for the old opening I had already had framed into the wall. It was very well packaged and went in very easily. Both windows were hung for a trial run and taken down so I could paint the inside of the window well white. This will help these holes blend into the wall and reflect more light into the stained glass window. Whenever the hall light is on or its daytime there will always be light in the bathroom now. Sitting in the center of the house it had no natural light.

Yesterday I figured I better get the shelves and closet door up. I managed to glue the first shelf together, as it was already in place and I had to pound it in place just to get it close. It took some glue and quite a bit more pounding to get it together. I need to tear a four inch wide piece to go on the front of the shelf and then cut the remaining three pieces for the bottom shelf. I decided to move onto the closet door and finished putting the screws in, drilled the holes for the rollers then promptly installed the rollers on backwards. After moving the rollers to the correct direction I realized that I am about 1/16” long on the factory bolts. I need a couple of washers to fill in the gap. The real problem with this is I need to get the door up on the wall so I can see if I have the clearance for the washers. So I brought the door in and tried to hang it, yep, its about an inch too tall. I need to cut some off of the bottom of the door. My plan is to just cut off two inches by going between the screws. I was able to make 2.25 of the 3 cuts needed before both batteries died. I will be finishing that job tomorrow. It is starting to shape up. Annmarie bought more baskets for the shelves yesterday. I finally had to move them all out so they didn’t get dirty as I finish it up. It is fairly obvious who will be using the bathroom mirror. She states the mirror is much higher quality, larger and I put in an amazing amount of light so its easy to apply makeup. I am not sure those were my criteria when I was building it…

Bathroom progress

My plan was to spend two days working on the bathroom. I want to get it done and since the plumber has not been here yet we still cannot use it. I ordered metal shelf brackets for the shelves. I wanted the shelves to get shorter and shallower as you go up the wall. I did not want to get two different size brackets. I was able to find a 8×12” bracket that I could just turn upside down for the shallower shelf. I knew I was going to install runners along the wall and ends but knew the brackets were necessary. I was just going to measure up from the top of the heater box until I figured out that it is not level. So then I had to mark out everything and install the brackets so they were actually level.

I ended up having to tear 1.5” strips to go along the wall between the brackets. This way the back board could rest on the entire back wall and since they are tongue and groove and I am gluing them together as I install it. While I was doing that I decided to get the barn door pieces made and put on top of the glued boards. The boards were not perfectly even so I left about a 1/4” on each end that I will need to trim off before I can hang the door up. I started putting a nail pattern onto the door and ended up only putting enough screws in to hold it all together. I will need to go back and make it pretty before I hang it up.

I had plans on finishing the shelves this weekend but Annmarie wanted me to go it and get rid of the dead alpaca carcass before it started to smell. So I will have to finish them next weekend.

Cows headed to new home

The sheep have gotten out of control! We keep having more lambs. All those sheep we sorted off last month because “they were not pregnant” have all had babies out in the main herd! Unfortunately, I think there are still 2-3 still left that need to have babies. I have lost track of how many we have had to date. Annmarie created a new spreadsheet and she has been keeping it up, I just need to review the data and post an update. Since we have had snow on the ground the sheep have really started going through the hay. I am pretty sure we are going to run out of hay in the barn. We only keep the small bales in the barn, the large bales are either sitting out or in the machine shed storage room. We have only used about 50% of our stored hay to date. I think we may end up storing 20 ton until next fall. This will cut down on how much we need to purchase next this year. It won’t cut it down by 50% but realistically by about 35% which is still better than nothing. I will probably end up pushing a big bale behind the barn for the sheep to tear into and eat what they want. They like to play king of the hill on them more than eat or get on top of the bale and while being king eat from the top of the bale. This will only be possible if the ground dries enough for me to move the bale with my little tractor. I have to make two 90 degree turns and the last turn is tight and if it’s muddy I won’t be able to make the last corner.

On Tuesday we found out that our butcher service was ready for two more cows and requested they be delivered on Friday morning at 0730. This means sorting the cows on Thursday evening, hooking up the trailer and locking them up in the corral so we can just chase them into the stock trailer first thing Friday morning. Honestly, the wife and I were both tired and we tried to push the cows alone and they would not go into the last enclosure. We just went and got the dogs and pushed them in. We usually try and just coax them in without the dogs first but it doesn’t always work. The dogs are more stressful on the animals than us just shooing them quietly toward the fence openings. Annmarie has convinced me that whooping and hollering usually doesn’t do much other than upset the animals, which it turns out is true. The dogs are far more effective than hollering and waving. Zeke still doesn’t like working the cows. He saw the sheep and wanted to go work them instead, I had to tell him we were working “cows”, he seemed a little deflated but went back to moving the cows out of the corner they had sequestered themselves in. Mouse loves the cows, he can stare them down, he can run at them, and if they still don’t move he gets to bite them on the heel or tail to move them, the sheep are boring. I always hook up the stock trailer and back it up to the chute the night before as this saves me from doing it first thing in the morning and it prevents the animals from exiting the corral via the chute. I had the trailer backed up to the chute, lined up perfectly on one try!! This is amazing after all the problems I had when we first got the trailer, it was brutal to try and back that thing up. I did have to pump up one tire, which is better than having to change one tire which is usually the case. The cows went right in and I drove them right to the secret location and unloaded them without a hitch. I thought about taking them for Dutch Brother’s coffee but decided we didn’t have time before their appointment.

I also managed to get the rest of our upstairs bathroom wired. I had a mild panic after I “misplaced” one of the outlet covers. I could not find it despite the 15 minute search. I used one of the other grey covers I had but it was metal not plastic and not quite the right color. I was hoping Annmarie would not notice. I was putting my tools away after job completion and the correct outlet cover magically appeared! It is now installed and they all match. I ordered simple metal shelf brackets last week and they came. If the weather permits we will cut 2” feather strips for the back of the wall and sides with room every three feet for a metal bracket. I want to get all the brackets installed without the shelves in place so I get the placement correct. This will make installing the shelves a simple matter of dropping them into place.

The last big news is we are having a full scale bug war at our house. The warming temperatures have caused the wax bugs and box elder bugs to come out of hiding. It’s crazy and we are killing about 30-50 bugs a day. I have finally resorted to using the Dyson portable vacuum 2-4 times a day to clear out the windows and occasional ceiling bug. I have sprayed the inside windows and it did not seem to do anything. It may be time to look at having new screens made for the windows. Ours have holes in them and are not all fitting tightly. When the weather gets slightly nicer I will start drenching the outside of the house in bug spray and see if I cannot knock down the amount around our house.

Annmarie and I have both been working on design ideas for the Craft Shack I want to build. I have been watching roofing videos on how to build gable roofs and dormers. She has been using CAD programs to draft out the size and inside layout. We think we have a final size. I want to use concrete columns with heavy duty floor jacks so I can level the building and make corrections in the future if necessary. Unfortunately that is 15 concrete piers with a $70 jack on top of every one. I do realize that the first layer is ultimately the most important to the long term viability of any building. We will start looking at prices of wood this summer. The cost of lumber is 2-3x higher than two years ago which is unfortunate for us. I am going to contact the two local wood mills and see if I can buy direct. The real kicker is what type of new and cool tool do I need to purchase to finish the job? I am thinking a rotary self leveling green laser with stand and a air powered framing nail gun. I have everything else we would need.