Lambs have begun!

I am unsure what I did this last Friday. I know I was outside quite a bit, I did clean off the front porch like the wife wanted. I picked up trash around the farm and ended up working on the front gate latch. A board had to be added to the gate to get the latch in the right spot. It is still not quite in the right spot but it is working better than the piece of rope. So we are going to see how it does. It does look better than the piece of striped rope! We also cleaned out the old house, two more huge bags of trash out to the trash can full of construction debris. I managed to even do some cleanup around the machine shed. I remembered, we had to change a tire on the flat trailer and go pickup more wood for the office. We got the boards to build two slider doors and the wood for all of the trim work around the inside of the office. We had to unload it back into the old house as it was supposed to snow the next day. I did change the supplemental feed for the ewes from a molasses mix to alfalfa pellets. The pellets have a couple of percentage points more protein. The trouble with this is the sheep LOVE their molasses crack. They are not very impressed with the alfalfa. So I have had to mix in some crack in with the alfalfa pellets to get them interested in them. It is working. I had to take a dead ewe out to the bone yard.

Saturday was better organized as I wanted to really get the office floor done. I did not expect to finish it but if it is going to get done I need to make progress on it every day. I have PTO coming up next week and want to get the floor done. I would even like to get the walls done but with dry times for the floor I don’t see that really happening. Unless I can get the floor sanded and cleaned up in the first three to four days I have to wait 24 hours between coats of stain and polyurethane. I really need three coats of polyurethane so that eats up all the time needed to rub walls down with the wax/oil sealant I have purchased for them. It will take me a couple of days to get the walls rubbed down and then after the walls are done I can cut trim, rub it down and then install it. Once all of that is done I can get the office set up then I can work on making the two sliding doors. They will be the very last thing I do.

It did not take long to use up all the sand paper I had on hand. So I went to town to buy more and Mr Professional cut insulation for the attic. He had brought out a 21” sander and I had a 18” sander so I decided to buy sandpaper for both sizes. I went to two different stores and bought all of the course paper they had in both sizes and ended up picking up some kind of paint wheel that attaches to a drill. I was sure we would run out of paper and would not be able to remove any paint. The little device did work but the 21” sandpaper on a higher horse power rotary belt sander did a much better job of tearing up the old paint. We made great progress and I think we can get the last of the paint off in one day.

Sunday was not going to be another office day. I went out to open the barn doors and discovered that there was a screamer lamb in the midst of all the ewes. This always makes it hard to figure out who is going to claim said loud mouth. I got the ewes to leave the barn fairly slow and then there was only a lamb standing there hollering and a ewe at the far end of the barn. I walked down there and sure enough she had a twin all curled up sleeping in the straw quietly. So this meant putting up panels at the far end of the barn to create five creches. We then hung feeders, filled up buckets with water and alfalfa pellets. Now the barn is ready for Monday morning when Annmarie comes out to let the sheep out of the barn.

We needed to sort off nine sheep to get five loaded up for transport to the butcher on Sunday evening. The other four will go on Friday. Of course the animal trailer has a flat tire also. I cannot seem to find my cheap little 12V tire pump. So that meant getting the back of the pickup cleaned out so we can slip in the animal pen. Of course we used the tractor, it was easier but the animal pen needs some welding repairs and we had to keep it together with strategically placed straps. We did get it in and strapped down after cleaning out the pickup and tossing the stuff in trash, a little in machine shop and the rest on the burn pile. The next problem is to get the sheep to run up into the back of the pickup so we do not have to lift them up into the pickup like last time. There is a very old ramp on wheels that is bent and beaten up. We tried to straighten it out but got stopped by a very thick piece of angle iron. It was going to take way more time to straighten it out and fix it then I was was willing to invest. So after looking at the corral I decided that we could make a ramp! So three 2×4 and a bunch of scrap wood and screws later we had a 8.5’ ramp. We used a iron T-post to rest the ramp on and had to use a couple of pallets to keep the sheep from squirting out the sides. Next time we are just going to remove the tailgate from the pickup and we will be able to just back right up to the ramp. The only thing I need to do is to add a few more boards up the sides to block the view over the sides from the sheep. They could have just jumped off the ramp right over the sides of the corral while loading up if they had so desired.

I used the puppy on a 30’ lead line to herd the sheep. This was fairly productive, but there is no way the puppy can be let off lead and in with the sheep. Once we had the sheep in the corral I left the puppy in the yard. She kept sticking her head into the corral and trying to crawl into it with the sheep. I finally had to lock her in the back yard. She ran back and forth along the fence caterwauling because I would not let her at the sheep. She seemed quite determined, this is a good quality in a sheep dog!

I have been scraping the honeycomb and honey into a sieve trying to get the honey out. I did not want to set up the frame extractor for one frame only. This way is slow but I am getting honey!

New Years resolution, finish the office

We are trying to get ready for lambing season, it should start this month. We sorted off four weathers into Alcatraz and sorted the ram off of the ewes. He was starting to get fat and pushy. He wanted to sneak up on you and try and ram you. I had come to an understanding with him but the few times Annmarie went out in the evening to feed he kept trying to sneak up on her and head butt her. This is both annoying and dangerous. If he knocks you to the ground you can get stepped on if the sheep panic and start to bolt. They do not care what is in their way, they just jump over or on it as they run away. So we are hoping that a few months isolated in Alcatraz with a few like minded folks will mellow him out. We still have all the rest of the feeder lambs down with the three bulls. They all share the alfalfa bales.

The weather is all screwy, on Saturday the temperature got to 50F. Since it was a holiday weekend I ran to town to get more insulation and a belt sander. They did not have the precut insulation so I got two full rolls. We can cut our own sections. While I was there I priced CDX 1/2” plywood, it was $30/sheet, not cheap but the second room only needs 20 sheets to redo all the walls. This will be the fastest way to finish off the room and economical. This room is going to be a reloading and jewelry making room for me. I am going to use the old outer door from the new office to be my inner door to the old freezer room. I will still need a new back door but I want one with a window in it to let in more natural light. I still need to stiffen the outer wall in that room before a new door gets installed. I did buy a new 18” belt sander, it was cheap! I was amazed at the price on corded power tools, most were under $100. Everyone wants battery operated tools nowadays. I know I do but after looking at the prices I went with a corded belt sander as I am only doing one room.

I came home and started working on installing the overhead lights, this did not go well for me. I want to preface this discussion by saying I have never installed track lighting before. There are definitely a few learning curve points. I had to tear off the decorative cover three times and keep adjusting the power supply connector to the track. It was off center and this was stopping the decorative cover from sitting flush. I also installed 12 feet of track. Holding up an eight foot section while on a ladder from one end is not a realistic prospect. Luckily, the track comes in a cardboard tube. I cut it shorter and then jammed it under the track at one end and the floor and used it as a third hand to hold the track up while I adjusted and screwed in the opposite end. After many tries I got the track installed and lights on the track. One of the lights is missing a bulb so I ordered spares on Amazon. I then went to the center light. This also did not go smoothly. The light is heavy, the box is retracted about a half an inch up into the ceiling. I was trying to wire the light and hold it up at the same time. I finally just wired in the ground wire and hung the light from the ground while I tried to get the other wires together. This was not easy and in the end I ripped out the grounding wire. I fought with it some more, and gave up. Today I added extenders to make the holder sit lower and got the light installed. Now that I had two lights installed I went out and flipped the breaker to see how the lights looked! Nope, I forgot that I had daisy chained the power to all three lights and the beginning of the chain was the light I had not yet installed. So I flipped the breaker back off and went and installed the last section of track lighting. This time I only had to remove the cover one time to get everything in alignment. I went and flipped the breaker to see if the lights work and viola, two of three work! Big surprise the main one in the middle of the room does not work. I also had to adjust two of the track lights to get them to fit into the track correctly. The track lighting is dimmer than I expected. So Annmarie ordered a new light and I will get it installed this week.

Saturday, Annmarie wanted me to burn the boxes and Christmas wrapping paper, she was tired of it living in the hallway. This was valid and the wind was no longer blowing so I moved it all out onto the front porch and grabbed the only fire stick I could find. Mind you, I only needed to make two trips out of the yard to take all the boxes out to burn. The smart move was to latch the gate as soon as I went through but that would require me to unlatch the gate again. I thought I could just fake it and make the gate appear to be closed therefore fooling the puppy, Chance to not run out and play with the animals. She ran along the fence away from the gate, I kept trying to light the damn fire stick! It would not make a flame, after about 75 tries I hear chickens squawking. I look up from my failed task and the border collie puppy is running after chickens! She is having a great time and feathers are flying everywhere. I run over screaming and throw the failed fire stick in her direction, it misses and she then spots the lone sheep in the field and makes a bee line for it. I have now given up on screaming or running after her and just start heading toward the barn. She has the sheep all balled up outside the barn then pushes them all into the barn before I can get up to the barn. When I enter the barn she has them all balled up against one wall and is laying in the hay trying to decide if she should move them some more. I chased the sheep out of the barn and shut the door. Eventually, I manage to catch the puppy, there was a lead rope on the wall so I attach that to her and we go out and actually work the sheep for five minutes on the run. She did manage to realize that “easy” did not mean hit the end of the lead rope at a dead run. It took a bit but she is teachable. She was glad to go back in the yard and did not look abashed at all.

Predators 15, Farm 5

I seem to be doing one of these updates weekly now. As we go into winter things definitely slow down. Our kittens came back to the wood shed this week! We have been feeding them out in the wood shed but would like to get them to come over to the garden so we don’t have to cross the bridge. I will hopefully get to cut the bridge down in the next two weeks. I will need to make some 2×6 crossing for the kittens so they can get over the water to food once the back creek starts running. It doesn’t need to be much to allow the cats to cross.

Between Annmarie and Donna the alpaca are getting pretty tame. Annmarie keeps apple flavored treats in her car for them so they like seeing her come home. They are not all compliant with eating out of her hand. Our blind one is definitely blind and still a bully. I saw him today tearing up to another alpaca at full speed, chest checking it then start neck wrestling. I was hoping that injury would slow him down.

I asked Annmarie what she wanted for Christmas and she stated she wanted a little shed for the bee supplies and her drip system tools and spare parts. So we found one online and had it shipped. I did not want to assemble and install the shed in January. I realize this may be an early Christmas present but it is only realistic if we do it now so I can get it assembled. It came this week and I spent a day putting it all together and creating a gravel pad for it so that it would not rot out the bottom. I just need to bed the back fence toward the yard and I should be able to attach the shed to the fence to prevent it from blowing over. I found a metal cable and used it to temporarily hold it down. I just need to get the spare drip parts out of the wood shed. So they are all in one place.

Chance, the puppy, is getting bigger. She is not as focused as mouse when it comes to the animals but she does like to chase things. After her run in with the front gate last weekend she has been limping. We keep telling her to take it easy but a six month old puppy does not know how to do that. Yesterday, they got out of the yard when I was working on the shed. This was exhausting so diner time was spent laying down and eating. The puppy is now limping on the other leg. We are starting to take her out on a lead rope around the sheep. I will be taking her out to the barn in the evening to expose her to more animals. She is sitting well for us and holds until released for food.

This week I went and picked up six more adult chickens from someone on Facebook. I was down to only nine hens, the raccoons have been slowly picking them off. I am reluctant to use live traps as I get tired of catching the cats and chickens. But Friday night Annmarie woke me up and said something was trying to get a chicken. This was obviously a stupid chicken as it did not go into the coop at dark. I had to run outside in my underwear and boots in 23 F weather. It is not comfortable! I spotted a raccoon under the old house but failed to hit it after three attempts. It is much harder to hit something in the dark. The next morning I ordered new batteries for my pistol laser. Someone told me there are traps that are dog/cat proof and will only catch raccoons. I got three of them and set them out yesterday afternoon. Today at 1000 I heard the dogs throwing a shit fit over by the chicken coop. They just would not let up. So I went out with my pistol and there was a raccoon that was trying to get into the coop during the day! There is one less raccoon on the farm now.

I went up to the bone yard, dropped off the carcass and proceeded to go up to field one to work on the ditch. I was able to get about another 120’ of ditch dug. I am over 2/3 done with the ditch. I still need to cut the tree out of the dry creek bottom so it doesn’t push the water out of the banks. I am hopeful that I can get this all done before it does a hard freeze and stays frozen.

Predators 15 / Farm 4

Well my staycation continues, Monday was the big day I needed to go pickup hay for the cows. We buy big bales for the winter. I am hopeful that we can get enough triticale planted this fall to put up enough of our own hay to not have to buy anymore. We are getting close. My hope is we have enough for two years this purchase. Then when I hay next year we are set. That is the plan, we are closing in on self sufficiency, it has not been easy to figure out what we need or how to get there.

I started the morning out with a good breakfast! This is the key to farm work. I almost always work through lunch and just eat breakfast and dinner so cooking something hearty first thing is essential. I did do the dishes afterwards. I then hoofed it up the back hillside to make sure the gates were closed after we moved the cows this weekend. I took both border collies and the puppy was in seventh heaven. She doesn’t get out of the yard much as she has a distinct lack of control. Of course I was able to call them back and got the gate opened, Mouse ran in and the puppy, Chance, ran up to the gate then saw a chicken, the chase was on. She terrorized several chickens, me hollering to no avail when she spotted the sheep! So she ran up the creek line alongside the fence looking at sheep, when she turned around and barreled towards me I was ready. I just snatched her off the ground and carried her back to the yard. She was distinctly unrepentant in her demeanor, wagging her tail and licking me the entire time. I then went out and pushed the three bulls across the barn lot, through the front yard and down into the below fields. We have three fences between the cows and the bulls now, our old bull should be contained. He is the Houdini of fence crossers and we don’t want him impregnating anyone. He will be hamburger in the spring. I then had to run to town and drop off stuff for wife, came back just in time to hook up flat bed trailer, pump up back trailer tire that is always chronically low and fuel up the tractor so I can move the bales off of the trailer. I also called for farm diesel to be delivered. Luckily for me, they were loading the truck with diesel for a Pilot Rock run that day and I was able to get squeezed onto the delivery route! This was much appreciated as I was going to run out in the next couple of days as many hours as I am putting on the tractor every day. The best part about this is the hand pump only needs to be moved every other delivery so two times a year. This is very reasonable and the pump works great, I am happy I did not get a second pump for another $350 installed with all the accoutrements.

I then went to get hay, its only about five miles away but we determined that I can only haul four bales at a time. The seller reminded me, four bales, I had him put a fifth on anyway that first load as there were 40 bales to move. It was not happening, four it was. The plan was to just pull the trailer into field four, shove them all off randomly and tomorrow I would place them in an organized fashion. I cannot stack them as the new Kubota will lift them 2-3” only. Which is not bad considering the lifting capacity is only 1100# and the bales weigh 1400#. I will stack them in a neat square.

I pushed three bales off and figured out I could just park the tractor and set the bucket to the right height to hold the bales in place while I drive the trailer out from underneath the bale. This worked super slick and I was off for the second load. I congratulated myself on my efficiency and kept going. The second load I tried to move two bales off at the same time using this technique and almost ripped the plastic bin off the front of the trailer, the bucket height was too low. I fixed that then was pulling the tractor sideways, there was too much weight to hold in place. I had to unload each bale individually with the tractor. On the third load I tried again but this time I got the front of the tractor in front of the spare trailer tire attached to the trailer and pulled the tractor sideways again. I had to unload individually again. Now I was not to be deterred by these obstacles and was determined to recreate the perfect bale dismount again. On the fourth trip I got the bottom part of the tractor forks too low and crushed the tire well! I tried to bend it back and beat on it with a hammer but I had a couple of creases in the metal and it was not happening. I managed to get it off the tire enough to drive it to the shop and cut off the tire well with a grinder. I am going to have to fix that, but I did learn my lesson and discontinued my duplication of perfection. It was getting late and each round trip was taking around 45 minutes. I needed to pick up the pace.
I was not even getting out of the pickup at the loading site and moving as fast as possible to get done before we lost daylight. This meant missing dinner but we were having leftovers so I could eat when I was done. On the 8th trip the alpacas decided to create chaos. I had to open one gate to get into the shop/grain bin area. The alpaca had been watching me all day and occasionally would start running at me when I opened the gate. I had been jeering at them and making less than respectful gestures as they tried to rush the gate. I had been winning. This trip they were waiting for me at the gate. I have to open the gate, get back in the pickup and pull pickup and trailer through and then jump out and shut the gate. I had 11/12 of them rush through out into the wheat field! I tried hollering, waving my hat, screaming, hitting them with hat and epithets but none of them worked and the sun was low on the horizon. I just left them. I simply did not have time to mess with them and they knew it! On my 9th trip there were several in the dirt road and when I opened the gate I was able to heard them with the horn and pickup out the gate, now there were 6/12 where they were supposed to be. On the last trip, just enough light to load the trailer, I parked in the alpaca area, with the trailer visible through the gate and used the tractor to push the last six out towards the alfalfa hay. They went grudgingly. Now I think they are all there but there may only be 11, it was hard to count in the dark. I will check in the morning. If there is one out it will stay close to its buddies.

At some point during the day our old bull got up onto the hillside behind our house. He is not supposed to be there, that was the point of me checking the gate. So I will need to look at the top gate and most likely secure the creek crossing. He just crawls under the panels at the creek crossings. He is so annoying. Now there are two fences between him and the females.

I used the tractor to herd the sheep into the barn lot. If they would sleep with the cows we would leave them up there but they always go off by themselves. We are having predator problems again. I have something eating my chickens again and we lost another lamb this last week. So here is the count. I have lost 12 chickens to predators and 3 to natural causes. I am sure it is a raccoon but it keeps harassing the chickens and I am only getting two eggs a day, they are stressed. We have lost three lambs to predators and one jumped into the old hand dug well and drowned. I just noticed this catastrophe by the smell and will now have to fish out a horrible mess. We don’t use the well but I need to clean it out and cover it up, sheep are so stupid. It had to jump up into the thing. We lost one calf to the flooding. The dogs have been barking at night and in early am and I have been going out for the last two weeks with a pistol and flashlight and have not found anything. I scan the trees looking for eyes. Last night at bed time the gods started up the barking, I went out and was just about ready to go inside when I decided to go look at the chicken coop, I was shining the light around and spotted eyes high up in the tree. It was a raccoon. It is no more. The predators and nature are definitely ahead this year. I need to get rid of the coyotes in the upper pasture but I have not seen them this week. Hopefully, we will now start getting more eggs. It will take the chickens a few days to relax and calm down.

Kitchen cabinet redo, courtesy of the wife and daughters

Annmarie and the girls have been working on the kitchen cupboards. They are stripping and repainting them. We knew this was going to be a very labor intensive job and have been putting it off for a few years. We bought paint samples and even painting the cupboards in places to compare colors and get the right ones. We wanted to bring out the colors in the backsplash and countertop. They have been working on it for three weeks now. The cupboard doors are almost ready to prime and paint. We just have a little stubborn paint at the 90 degree on the door side that would stop the doors from fully closing so I need to get it out. I think I will have to take a razor blade knife to get it out easily.

Annmarie has been diligently working on it. The paint stripper is citrus based but it still gives me a headache when they use it. After a few coats of that and scraping it off they sand it down. Annmarie has been doing the inside and Monica has been concentrating on the doors outside. We have some sawhorses and an awning set up outside to work under. It is slow and methodical work and they are all doing a great job. We have all new hardware, hinges, magnetic latches, door knobs and pulls. I have been informed that I will be doing the hardware install. But honestly, I am getting the best deal possible when it comes to this job. Once the second set of cupboards are done then we will pull out the fridge and do the lower cabinets and the little cabinet over the fridge at the same time. This will mean no ice maker for the duration of that time! This is a painful prospect when it is 109F.

The amazing part is our back runoff creek is still running even though we have had record high temperatures all week. I don’t think it will last another week as it has really lowered this last week. The puppy, chance had to go to the vet because she started peeing every three minutes! Turns out she has some kind of fecal infection from something she ate out here. We tried to make a list but it was fairly disgusting so we just chalk it up to her being a puppy and her gut needs to toughen up. We are treating it with antibiotics and she is doing much better. Gizmo had to go to the vet also four days earlier for a bloody nose and unceasing sneezing. He had a piece of cheat grass up in his sinus cavity. They got it all out and after a few days on steriods he does not even snore any more! He is also doing great.