We have officially had our coldest night of 2021 last night! It got down to -6.7 F per our thermometer last night. I waited for it to warm up before going outside to do morning chores – it was 8 F. This doesn’t sound much warmer but it really is a lot warmer than negative numbers. I dressed up in four different layers. I will admit the two stockings on my head was overkill and did make it a little too warm when I was out in the barn feeding. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. I was even able to find a couple of places that still had undisturbed snow to take some pictures. We still have six ewes that need to give birth and they are not having lambs any time soon. It is crazy how much the old ram spread out his affection. We have been lambing for over four months now. The old ram comes over and visits us when we go into the barn lot. He wants scritches and some more food, fortunately for us he is teaching the new ram that we are the source of all that is good. I have been able to pet on the new ram several times and I have not even fed him any grain yet.
The cows up above and down below all got some supplemental hay bales tossed out today. They can root through the bales and pick out the grain heads and use the straw as filler. I will feed them supplemental hay again tomorrow. This just stretches the large bales that we are feeding. When I went down to feed the lower cows the alpaca had pushed them away from the feeder and the cows were down by the schoolhouse wandering around. I drove the tractor in circles to flatten the snow to create a spot to toss out the bales. The cows came running when they heard the tractor!
I told Annmarie I would start in on some of the winter projects. One of which is to make frames for the upstairs bathroom closet. But before I could do that I needed to clean off the shelves. This led to a very large give away pile and the joy of space bags being realized. The space bags made short work of all the extra blankets and pillows. I found three more Pendleton wool blankets buried and we had even taken them to the dry cleaners at one point as they all were still in their bags with tags. Annmarie is going to order the heavy duty magnets and I will make the frames and install the magnets on the cabinet faces and the frames. We are then going to cover the frames with fabric. There will be three frames for each side so you will only need to remove one frame to access what you want. Once I get the bathroom door back on there will be no room for cabinet doors. The magnetic frames is a great space saver for this tight spot.
Summer is definitely coming. We are working on getting our water back up and out to all of the plants. That last minute freeze (17 degrees F) wrecked havoc with our automatic water timers. We had already turned on the garden and lavender sprinkler system and the timers froze, nothing else was damaged. So yesterday we got the berries and lavender watered and lavender weeded. I had some grass trying to grow through the ground cloth and rubber bark, so I pulled it all and got most of the roots. It’s a lot easier to do when the grass clumps are small. We also got the front hillside water turned on and the entire front hillside watered. It does not have a timer and we accidentally left it on last night so it will now be getting a manual timer that will go up to two hours. The water pressure is a lot better since we found and fixed the leak.
Our Murphy bed came via freight truck on Thursday. I tried to talk the guys into delivering it across the bridge and onto the front porch. They were not going to do that as it is only curbside delivery. We were just happy that they did not sit on it for two months while Annmarie badgered them to deliver it, our last local freight experience was less than pleasant. The last one wanted a full load of stuff before they came to Pilot Rock!! We would have to wait a few years for that to occur, which is what Annmarie told them repeatedly. The whole thing is heavy, 800# and we weren’t sure how to get it to the house. I had asked Annmarie to get me a set of “arm forks”, straps that go over your forearms and provide the leverage where you need it to maximize your lifting capability. Most people have the strength just not the grip power, their hands quit which makes it hard to carry stuff. They did not have that so she got me these shoulder straps shaped like an X behind your back and then an adjustable six inch wide strap that goes between them. You put on the harness, squat down, adjust the wide strap then you both just stand up! Your legs actually do all the lifting and then you just stabilize it with your arms. We were able to move the heavy bed portion into the craft room and it weighs around 400 pounds. It was amazing! We moved all four items into the craft room and kinda scoped out the assembly. Without opening the instruction box we have determined that the floor trim needs to be removed and I am going to have to move both outlets on the wall higher. I expect it to take a solid eight hours to get it installed.
I installed a rack in the upstairs bathroom and am now just waiting on the toilet paper roll holder and a hand towel holder. The last item is to make a template for the granite piece that goes on the triangular spot next to the toilet. I am hopeful that I can get that done next week. We moved our daughter back home after selling Annmarie’s grandmothers house. So yesterday was moving day and now we have boxes all over the house, in the attic and with the Murphy bed taking up space we had to move stuff out of that room also! Needless to say it will take us at least a week to dig out and get things arranged.
The chickens were waiting for food when I went out to get eggs last night. The extra rooster has been dispatched and now there should be less fighting at the compost dumping grounds, also known as the treat station to the chickens. Of course we still only have one calf, we hope they will hurry up and just have the rest.
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.
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!
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…