I am no longer in running shape

Last weekend we needed to work the cows again.  It seems like a never ending need but we had two more calves sneak out unexpectedly and they needed to be tagged and banded.  Mr Professional and I were going to show Annmarie and go out and just get the cows in and then she would not have to walk the entire length of the farm several times.  I opened the lower gate behind the house but did not go to the top of the fence and open the upper gate.  I didn’t think I would need to…

We walked down and pushed the cows towards our house.  They wanted to go into the orchard but we had the sheep in there so I did not want to run them through the sheep and alpaca.  We would have to sort species after that which would cause more drama, best to be avoided.  We had the cows almost to the fence and one female cow decided she was not going and bolted straight up the hill.  I had to sprint up the entire length of the hill to cut her off.  We left the dogs at the house also.  I sprinted up the hill a second time and cut her off.  The cows wanted to go in the closed upper gate.  The third time she bolted for the top again I started to sprint and just said “piss on it” and quit.  My foot had a blister and I was tired and this was obviously not working.  Annmarie came out and opened the upper gate, I went and got the dogs and we pushed them over into the field behind the house.  We again had a horrible time getting them down near the back creek.  I will need to fix the gate opening and put the new opening in the corner of the field so we can easily push the animals through.  We did get them into the barn lot and tagged a little girl and tag and banded a little boy.  The calves were small enough they were easy to handle.  Unfortunately we had a 5 month old girl that the bull kept paying too much attention.  So we had to sort her off and who we thought was momma.  7E97FB6A-EDE9-40A3-963A-B0801C0E070A
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The three cows above got sorted off and sent into the upper pastures with the other isolated cows.  No bull up there.  Annmarie pointed out another problem after we sorted them off.  The old green tag cow that she wanted to make into hamburger and we sorted off early to prevent her from getting pregnant is very pregnant.  So now she is going to have another calf and avoid the dinner table for another year.

We had the dogs out chasing cows with us and since this entire process took four hours they were “dog tired” afterwards.  Kittens were spotted down in the blackberry bushes hanging out.

This week after work we set up the storage shelves and made a spot for a very large toolbox and the welding job box.  The welding tables also got moved around to the front of the machine shop.  Once all the tools get put away the drawers will get labeled and I will bring out a grinding wheel/wire brush combo and bolt it down to the table.  We should be able to manufacture about 80% of our needed things.  It’s just that I hate getting organized.  I ended up getting bins and each piece of equipment is going to have a bin of new parts.  This is necessary when all of your hay equipment is made in Italy.

I guess I will work on bathroom again

Sometimes I struggle with what is real important information for the farm blog.  It may appear that farm life is a mere repetition of the same type of themes, what is growing (animals or plants), how is it maintained and how is it harvested.  I would actually agree with this theory.  It is basic, at its core all life is basic, we all yearn and strive to ensure the basics are fulfilled so that we can concentrate on the other things.  So that being said I have determined that minutiae is important, even critical as it breaks up the normal routine.

That being said I now have self granted permission to boast about my rock chuck dispatching.  I spotted it running across the ram pasture, minding its own business.   They live up on the hillside in a large pile of rocks and when they start venturing out and I start seeing them we know there are too many.  They are usually fairly reclusive and avoid the house.  I had to get dressed before I could go outside (it was chilly and clothes are really vital when it is that cold outside). I then had to run upstairs and grab my 117 hmr rifle.  I have not shot this gun much but it has reach that the 22fLR does not and the little digger was about 50 yards away.  I snuck around the house and spotted it down by the creek, I realized while looking through the scope that I need a new scope. This one is not very good and my father spoiled me with Leopold scopes my entire life so I am adding a new scope to my wish list.  One shot and the little digger was dispatched.  They are so reclusive that you usually only get one shot before they all hide for the entire day.  One may ask what did it do to me?  All you need to do is come out and fix some of the fence and rockcribs that have been ruined by them digging holes and you would know.  I don’t go out of my way to eradicate them but population controls are necessary for all the animals on the farm including the ones we don’t raise.  A few animals of any kind are not usually a problem, but a lot of any one type of critter takes a lot more management effort.  The fox has not been spotted in the last two weeks and I have not lost any more chickens but I suspect that the fox is still up and doing fine as it has no predators.  We will keep our eyes out.  I spotted both of our barn cats slinking out around the barn lot this weekend so the fox has not managed to get either of them.

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Saturday I decided to do some odds and ends chores to play catch up on the little things.  I hung seven yellow jacket traps out around the house and orchard.  We are hoping to cut down on the yellow jacket population this summer and keep them away from our ripening fruit.  I will also be spraying all of the nests so they do not gain a foothold.

I used the tractor to drag the colored tire pieces over to the future lavender patch.  The bag weighs almost 1100 pounds and my tractor will only lift 800 pounds.  Luckily, it was on a pallet so when I drug it off the pallet it was just touching the ground and I was able to drag it over to its new location.  The four legged 120# cats (alpaca) bum rushed the gate to the orchard as soon as I had it open.  They are so inquisitive that it is painful at times to keep them away from things you don’t want them in.  You cannot let them touch it with their lips or let the gate be open or they will touch it or go through it no matter what is on the other side.  While I was over by the future lavender patch I killed all the thistles with a shovel.  I just need to to roll out the ground cloth and start piling on the rubber bark to hold it down.

I also went out into the orchard and cut all the metal tree rings in half with the bolt cutters.  I was unable to finish tearing them down as I did not have any fencing pliers.  I need two of them to go around the new kiwi plants and then I will have five more ready for more fruit trees.  I will probably dig holes and install the other five rings so I am ready for more fruit trees.  I am on the lookout for 1-2 standard size apricot tree saplings.  Since I had the bolt cutters I also trimmed a piece of  cow panel to go under the orchard gate to prevent Zeke from digging under it and escaping the new orchard fence.

Annmarie offered to grill dinner as we are getting tired of eating beef, pork or lamb from the stovetop.  Unfortunately, I needed to do the spring cleaning on the grill and to make matters worse I cannot use the grill.  No matter how many times I have tried to use the little grill I have messed it up.  The last two times I have even failed to get it lit properly (it’s a little pellet grill).  So I spent an hour cleaning it all up and making it spiffy and nice so Annmarie (the pants wearing variety) could run the grill and make us dinner.  This has really been the story our entire life.  I do not have the patience for the grill and never really learned to master it or even barely use it.  I have embraced this knowledge and let Annmarie do all the grilling for us.  Even now, I am making the rice and steaming vegetables while she is out grilling us chicken pieces in peanut satay sauce that I trimmed and marinated this morning.    After I cleaned the grill I washed and cleaned off the back porch siding to make a nice neat area.

Yesterday afternoon I went out and collected two more hay samples for Annmarie to test.  The weather has just not been cooperating I need 3 good solid warm and windy days all in a row and have not had it since I cut the grass hay.  She got 39% and 43% which is better than the last time we tested but still not low enough to bale.  I went out on the tractor and turned it one more time.  I am getting used to the hay rake and it only took me 2.5 hours to turn all 7 acres.  This was of course negated today by the 21/100” of rain that we had pour out of the sky.  I will be looking at turning the hay again in a couple of days.  I think its supposed to rain every 1-2 days all week long.  This is not helping my haying abilities.

After dinner we had to go outside and use the dogs to chase the sheep off of the back hillside.  I have not yet dropped the panels down into the back creek as I keep expecting us to get a bunch of water runoff from the mountains.  It is now Mid May and we still have a low Stewart creek so after the dogs did their job I lowered the first set of panels down into the creek bed to stop the sheep from escaping.  I have three other creek crossings that I am going to leave up for now.

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So today was a lazy day except for the bathroom, I cut the single hardest piece of wood yet, it had part of an arch from the top of the mirror, a light outlet notch and I had to cut out around the door all on one piece of wood.  The real problem is there is about 1/2” difference on height between the mirror sides.  I cut a template three separate times and had to make two attempts at the board and finally had to bring the jigsaw up into the bathroom to make a couple fo final adjustments.  I got it in, its not perfect but it is the best I could do and I suspect most people will not notice the gap.  If I cut it in half I could have covered it up or if I rip apart the right side of the mirror and slowly add in some space I could make up the difference.  I am not going to do it.  The wife said it was good enough and I am going with that.

 

There was to be no new fencing this year…

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Annmarie told me this year I was not to fence.  I had a lot to do and after spending most of last year doing nothing but fencing I needed to focus on other things this year.  Now I do not disagree with this but we really did need some more fencing…

Barb Morehead took this terrific photo of our little beautiful calf, and kindly shared it us.  He is named Valentine for the heart he wears on his forehead.  We were really hoping he would be a she.  He will still be good eating.

We have been slowly working on getting our berry/lavender grow area ready.  Unfortunately, this necessitated building a fence around the space to keep the herbivores away from our food.  The pine trees got cut down several years ago and I sprayed the area with Roundup a week ago.  This plant attack has done nothing but point out where all the thistles are located.  I have been slowly killing the thistles with a shovel.  I cannot use any other kind of herbicide or I will kill anything I plant in the ground.  I also tried to order ground cloth so we can plant our lavender through it but could not get any online that was not horribly expensive.  I still spent almost $400 on cloth and thought I had gotten a good deal.  I had to drive to the Tricities to pickup our bathroom vanity so I bought all the ground cloth that Home Depot had available.  The only reason they still had it was it was in a box high above and no one had bothered to check there yet.

A Pallet of stained brown tire chips was delivered on Thursday in one single great big bag weighing 1100#.  I need to finish killing the thistles then weed eat everything down to the ground then put the ground cloth down.  I have had a couple of boys working on the fence.  Since they were going to do most of the work I decided that we needed to fence in the orchard also.  Our orchard area is fenced in already but I wanted to just put up an interior fence around the fruit trees so that we can take all the skirts around the tree down.  I want to keep a 2’ tall cow panel ring around the trees only.  This will keep any animals from rubbing on the tree or eating the bark at the base of the tree.  This will also double the number of rings I have available for more trees.  There are seven young fruit trees so we can plant seven more trees.  I picked up two at Home Depot Thursday, Hardy Kiwi trees.  The fruit only gets to the size of a Kumquat but it is supposed to taste like a kiwi and it looks like a kiwi.  I bought two as they are small!  The plants are about 2 inches tall and its a single stick.  We will see in 3-4 weeks if they were alive or not.  We also bought some coconut fiber mats to go around the trees to keep the weeds down.

While we were working on the fence today the alpaca kept trying to sneak in through the gate.  I had to exit the gate to get wooden fence stays and they tried to bum rush the open gate.  They are very curious animals and will seek out new experiences.  One of them stood by the fence and made super weird noises today.  A noise even I had not heard before.  They won’t move if they are laying in the road either.  They will win a game of chicken every time, even into death.  The delivery guys are scared they are going to cream one, I am kinda surprised they have not hit one yet.

Today we got the orchard fence completed.  It looks good and even our border collies cannot get out of it.  I can move the border collies to the orchard and let the sheep into our yard to mow now!  If you try and keep the collies inside the house all day so the sheep can eat the front yard they make you crazy.  Zeke keeps ring the bell  hanging from the front door.  You have to remove the bell or he will just keep randomly ringing it and laying in front of the door waiting for you to let him out.  Mouse will come lick your hand repeatedly until you let him outside.  It is a tossup as to which Border Collie is more annoying in their attempt to get what they want.

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I also found out that we have a red fox living on the property.  It has been spotted twice this week and I am sure I am down at least two more chickens.  I thought it was a raccoon and tonight when I was putting the sheep into the ram pasture I found a dead chicken head on the hillside.  I am told it has a den over by the fencing supplies storage area.  I will have to take a look for myself this weekend.

Wagon Train Woes

We put off taking the cows in to be slaughtered for a week due to the snow and ice on the road.  I did not want to pull that horse trailer in that type of weather and the college was gracious enough to allow us to put it off.  I needed to be at the college between 1630-1700 on Thursday so they could kill on Friday.  There were to be no more delays, the wagon train must go on!  So we planned out the week, so that the cows would be moved to the corral on Wednesday and I would come home early on Thursday and load them and go to college, this seems fairly easy.

On Wednesday it started raining in the morning and proceeded to rain all day.  The barn lot is mostly dirt.  I came home a little early so I could work the cows in the daylight.  I decided that I would need some assistance which means letting the dogs help me.  I went into the Alcatraz area and managed to sort off the three steers I wanted in 10 minutes alone.  Once I got them out of the pen and the gates latched I needed help.  I brought the border collies over to help me.  This did not go as well as I wanted.  The steers kept going into the corner of the field nearest the Alcatraz fence and would not leave.  If I tried to get one dog to go in and root them out then I had to turn my back on the other dog.  This seemed to be a signal for the second dog to do whatever they wanted, which equated to balling the steers up into a corner and not letting them get out.  This meant that I started to holler and swear at the dogs.  It took 75 minutes for us to get the steers into the corral. 68 minutes was spent trying to get them past the first gate.  I was making the dogs lay down in the mud as they assumed that a crouching position meant they could move whenever they wanted.  I could hardly talk when I was done.  Luckily, for the dogs, it was 45 degrees outside.  I washed all the mud off of them in the outside faucet.  The pictures below are of the two of them just after we came inside.  They don’t look very contrite.  I could hardly talk the next day, everyone at work thought I was sick.   

I came home at 1500 on Thursday to load up the cows.  I felt so bad after getting the cows into the corral the night before that I did not hook up the horse trailer.  I had plans to do it but I was cold, wet and muddy and was not going to do it.  Why do it then when you can put it off until the next day?

Our housekeeper was just finishing up and offered to stay and help.  Things never go smoothly when you are on a deadline so I accepted.  I drove over and tried to hook up to the trailer and realized that I needed a smaller 2’ hitch ball.  I found a triple one in the machine shed but it had a straight stinger and this was going to cause the trailer to be canted to the rear pretty severely.  So I ran back to the old house to find a 2” ball already attached to a 2” drop stinger.  We got that installed and after the trailer was hitched Tisha asked me if I wanted the bad news.  I am on a deadline, there can be no bad news!  I had a flat tire on the rear right side.  Mind you a few months ago I had the other flat and the spare tire fixed!  So we pulled the trailer up onto a wooden block, elevating the flat tire so it could be changed.  I tried to put it on backwards in my rush, luckily Tisha caught it and told me so I could fix it.  Once the trailer was officially hooked up and ready to go I jumped onto the tractor and pushed the calf table out from in front of the chute.

Tisha backed the trailer right up to the chute opening and we have an sliding half gate so the openings lined up perfectly.  I just jumped in the corral, opened the chute gate and pushed them into the the chute.  Their horns kept hanging up on the walls so they had to concentrate on moving forward so they did not fight the transition at all.  Once they got into the trailer I chased them to the front half and closed our divider gate.  These are really handy as it keeps the cows in the front half so they cannot move around as much.

I was headed to town when I noticed the junk in the passenger floorboard and seat.  Annmarie was supposed to jump in and show me where to go when I got to the college.  She thinks the pickup should always be cleaned out.  I believe that it is a working vehicle and when stuff starts falling out when you open the doors then you need to clean it out.  A small difference of opinion.  As I was pulling up the college hill I messaged her.  She said she would meet me just outside her office building.  Well I had two cars behind me as I came even with her building so instead of just stopping in the road I kept going up and around the corner.  She called to ask where I was going and then we had a long discussion about being a farmer and how when you are hauling a trailer it is acceptable practice to just stop in the middle of the road.  She even argued that it was commonplace (hard to refute that) and I should have joined the club.  I made sure to take the extra time it took her to walk to my stopping location to move trash and stuff from the seat and floorboards so that nothing would fall out when she opened the passenger door.  Nothing  fell out but she was insistent that I needed to clean out the pickup.  We got the cows unloaded without incidence and went home.  Once they give us the hanging weight I will send bills out to the three buyers.

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Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.