Ready I think

I am focused on getting the upper fields ready for planting. I finished the discing yesterday. I now have to get an expert opinion out to look at the fields and tell me what to do next. I want to get the alfalfa fields planted this month. After they are planted then we will start working on getting financing arranged to buy our haying equipment.

I ordered the wood to fix the roof in the machine shed. I broke a couple of boards last year when I was trying to move the large bales in and out. So I should be able to fix the damage soon. I want to bolt the new beam in place so the upper wall cannot pull apart. I may even bolt the upper beams at the front and back of the opening so it is done in three places. We will need to line the walls with plywood or use 2×4 fir strips every 12 inches so the new small bales don’t push on the outside boards covering the buildings.

Mouse was being a good boy and listening. We were waiting for Annmarie to push the sheep past us. We were in place to keep them from circling around the barn lot instead of going out the gate and out onto the upper hillside. Once the sheep spotted Mouse they turned and went out the gate, without him they would have just ran right by me.

I always wear a hat when I am outside but sitting on the tractor can make for a dusty experience. I don’t like the dust masks so don’t use them much. It seems like every time I look at myself I have less hair on top of my head! I am not sure why my mother says I need a haircut every 2-3 weeks. It may be time for a beard trim though… I asked Annmarie if I would look younger if my beard was all brown. She told me to just dye it. I cannot bring myself to do it. I would rather have custom done coffee beans before spending a dime on personal appearance grooming things. I could get a free haircut every 2-3 weeks and still manage to hold off 2-3 months before getting one. I guess I am just not very stylish. I asked the puppy his opinion and he didn’t care one way or another. So I guess I will keep it this way.

Fresh beef coming

I have been busy and am having a hard time working on the blog daily. I have gone to the weekends as I can carve out the time. It allows me to think about the work that has been done and see how we are moving forward. I still like the daily blogs but after dragging myself in and cleaning up, I am tired and it is proven that I don’t write very well when I am tired. Annmarie says it is possible to read my emotions when reading the blog. Sometimes I am short and factual but other times I see it. I am still not convinced but I have come to enjoy writing about something I love. It’s not always glamorous, its not always humorous but it is honest. It’s the real trials and tribulations that happen on a farm. We have worked hard to learn about what went on and why things were done by the families that lived on this farm before us. A diary of the farm would have been a treasure trove of information. I guess in a way this is my dairy and contribution to future generations of the Gilliland Century Farm. This is our part of the story and I want those families to love it as much as we do. We work every day to make this place our own, we work every day to repair and build onto the work done over the last 114 years. It is a daunting thought to think that it really has been that long and we are continuing the tradition. Every year we try to become a little closer to self sustaining. I think we will make it in the next three years. I am going to boldly proclaim this goal!! Because, honestly, its just words for now, the real work will be documented here in this blog.

The butcher is coming to the farm soon and we needed to sort cows. We had kept the four boys off of the main herd of cows but Donna had spotted a new calf. Annmarie and I spotted it when we came home from our coast visitation/vacation/restacation. This means we need to run in the cows, and deal with the new calf. On the last calf we waited too long and the nephew and I could hardly hold him down while we tag and banded him. We now have large banding pliers with oversized bands that will fit a calf up to 250#. I personally do not want to wrestle with a 250# calf in an open pen with no rope and only two men.

We do have a real roping rope and we have a real short chunk of rope to tie the legs. We watched a YouTube video on how to tie up a goat and I have forgotten about 80% of what we learned. I find that to really cement a YouTube lesson one must watch it, then go out the same day or next and practice it for real then go back and watch it again. I did not do that. I figure that if I can learn to shear, trim feet and teeth on an alpaca from YouTube I can lean almost any animal husbandry from it. I do realize that YouTube is not an expert but if you are careful you can find good information. Trial and error is the best teacher.

We had to run the four boy cows into the corral first then sorted off the 8 month old to leave in the corral. He gets to rejoin the main herd and the other three got pushed into the upper prime field. They get to have a butcher visitation next week. We have already sold all three live animals.

We took the dogs with us and I even remembered to grab the 30 foot lead rope in case a dog got super exuberant when we worked the cows. I set the lead down on the corral while working the first set and did not remember it until we were on the back hillside headed down to get the main herd. I never manage to actually bring the lead when needed. The cows were down by the school house, farthest distance from the house possible as usual. I took Zeke down and rounded the cows up while Annmarie stayed on the hillside with Mouse. Mouse did not like this arrangement and ran down to me. We really needed the lead rope. The calf was fairly young, probably only a few days old. We are guessing this because it was still very curious. We had a hard time herding it as it kept wanting to come see us or the dogs which caused the momma cow and the bull to get agitated. Eventually we ended up getting the cows into the barn lot. Annmarie and Zeke pushed the sheep out of the barn lot then we pushed the cow herd into the corral. This was not too bad, the green ear tag cow did not want to go, she never does. We have at least three more cows that are super pregnant and should have more calves in the next two months. The summer births are way better for the calves with this breed of cow. We got the cow and calf isolated to one pen and then got the momma into the chute so we could touch the calf without her being able to touch us. I asked Annmarie to film us but she was irritated as I did not have all the tools ready and had to make a barn run. It went very smoothly, I got two testicles and I used the right color of ear tag and I even remembered to tag the calf in the right ear as we will be selling it. Keepers get a tag in the left ear. We then put pour over fly medicine on the cows. The flies should be going away as soon as the weather turns.

We discovered that last year we missed a steer. I realized this seems near impossible, but it is easier than you think. So we sorted off another cow for the butcher. We will be stocking our freezer this year with beef it seems.

We managed to do all of this in under two hours. This is very good and the dogs made it all that much easier. Zeke had snuck off while we were in the corral the first time working the cows but as we headed down to the school house he appeared down by the pumping station. Mouse was a good boy and waited for us.

I have been trying to get the two upper pastures disced and knock down the weeds. I seem to be tracking in a small bucket of dust every time I get on the tractor. I am closing in and hope to be done this weekend. I spent about 14 hours at the beginning of the week going around in circles. I change it up occasionally by going in a rectangular pattern and if I am feeling adventurous or in an odd spot I will even go in a figure 8 pattern. Its not very riveting but I have found that a book on tape is the best thing for this kind of work. Its way better than music for keeping my brain engaged. The mistress is no worse for the wear. Not a single new dent or scratch from the tip over. I really need to take a few hours this month and give her a bath, repaint the hood as the horses took another bite out of her. I may even take a hammer and see if I cannot beat the dent out of the hood. The hood latch is very hard to work and I may need to do some adjusting but that probably won’t happen as long as I can make it work. The roll bar lights on the right side are missing and need to be replaced. I suspect I will need new tires in a year or two. I am pretty happy with my little John Deere tractor. It has made my life a lot easier and I would recommend a small tractor for any small farm. It is a must.

Internet dreams do come true

Last week a five year dream came true, we now have actual high speed internet! On Monday they hooked up our unlimited fiberoptic cable driven internet. Our double modem wireless network is running at 50MBS. Our TV and computer are hardwired directly into the modems and running at 700MBS+. I was able to upload pictures for the blog in under three seconds. If it was possible before it would take 5-10 minutes and it was glorious.

We were able to watch TV and did not have to go around the house and put all our devices into airplane mode. I did not even realize that when you surf the Netflix choices that the movies actually play a small preview, at our house these were always static and never moved. The picture is super clear and not pixelated, this takes TV watching to a whole new level for me.

We got our first green egg from the baby chickens late last week. I fully expect more green eggs to show up now. The eggs will be smaller for about a month before they become normal sized. We need more eggs so they can start paying their way. The last of our hay from the upper hay field was brought down to the house. We now have 24 bales to feed this winter. Next year we will have only alfalfa that we will have bailed. We went on vacation to visit friends on the coast. Sarah watched our house over the weekend. She called one night because the dogs were trying to tear out of their kennels. We told her to let them loose out into the yard to get whatever it was that was upsetting them. They tore out into the yard and eventually came back to the house. The pup slept on the foot of her bed and our older dog slept across the doorway. We didn’t figure she would have many problems with them around.

More of the same

Sunday I was back at the field. This time it only took 30 minutes to get the tractor ready and get up to the field. We are getting ready to love us some high speed fiberoptic transmitted internet! Here you see the fiberoptic cable coiled up and ready to go to our house. Annmarie tells me that in one week we will have it up and running in our house! It could have been sooner but we opted to have them bury the cable in our yard and install two routers inside our house with direct hard wire to the fiberoptic line. It will be amazing. We have even heard rumors that some of our neighbors are inquiring about having it added to their house now. I spent another 8 hours on the tractor again. It would have been a straight shot but a couple of hours into it Zeke showed up to the upper field. He loves eating voles but its not safe for the dogs to be up there currently. So I walked him back to the house and discovered that he had pushed on the panel going into the ram pasture. The bungee had broke and he figured it out causing an opening to near the top. I closed it and tied it shut. But no Mouse or Gizmo anywhere in the yard. I figured they had used the same hole but when I walked up to the front fence I discovered that Annmarie had not latched the gate into the corral and Mouse had pushed on the gate and opened it up. The other two dogs used that opportunity to sneak down to Grandma’s house and ate cat food. I pulled weeds on the front hillside and hollered for the dogs occasionally. Mouse came back first and Gizmo showed up about ten minutes later. Once everyone was back in the yard I went back out and started to go around in circles. I managed to get one field completed and started in the next one. There was an old hay elevator parked up there that I grabbed with the tractor and pulled back to the house. The two flat tires were no match for my mistress! The elevator is an old pto belt driven thing probably from the 1950’s. I need Annmarie to tell me scrap or front yard decoration. There is still some 4 inch mainline irrigation pipe buried alongside the fence in the upper 7 acre field. It will have to be dug out by hand. It is resting nicely where it is for now.

We have been feeding the sheep for about 2 weeks now and they have all put on weight. The pasture we were keeping them on had no nutrition. We have not let them out on the back hillside because of the coyotes. Losing three of them has made us cautious of just letting them roam free. If we do that then we still have to bring them in every night. So for now we are having to feed hay. This is cutting into our winter feed stockpile and I am going to have to buy another four tons of hay to get us through the winter.

Cowboy breakfast

The animal experience ended well, we made homemade biscuits and milk gravy! I even fried the sausage in leftover bacon grease, do not knock it until you have tried it! The sausage was really lean and you need some fat to get the flour to brown. The biscuits are always made from Bisquick, which isn’t really from scratch but they are still made at home and they are amazing. It was a great ending to a long morning. We started moving animals at 0530 this morning. It has been very hot and the animals don’t do well in the heat, they get stressed easily. Annmarie doesn’t like the heat either, one could say she gets stressed also, if one dared. So we were out the door by 0534 to begin our adventure. It’s hard to explain to people why we have worked so hard to subdivide the property and why we have so many different gates and enclosures throughout the farm. It all comes down to moving and sorting animals, this task is much easier if you can place animals in pens or re-sort them when needed. This was especially true today as we had two separate groups of cows and two separate groups of sheep.

The sheep and horses were in with the first group of six cows. We used the border collies to push the sheep into our front yard. This was Annmarie’s idea as it gets them out of the way and I agreed but as an added bonus the lawn needs mowed. Dual purpose is the name of the game. The dogs did very well and it took less than a minute to get them out of the barn lot and into the yard with no swearing. This is a near miraculous event and not very common. Our dogs are trained to respond to swearing and yelling. This is totally our fault, but we realize that the dogs need to practice on the animals to learn but it can be trying at times. We got the first six cows into the corral and dusted them down for flies. We had them in 2 of the 3 pens then went to get the other cows. The other cows were way down by the schoolhouse. Actually, half were up by the irrigation pump but they ran down to see the bull and ended up at the end of the property by the school house. Annmarie took both dogs and Mouse was being a spicy pickle with tons of extra hot and a dash of horseradish. Sarah asked me why she kept using him if he kept running and doing the wrong thing. I told her that she was teaching him, he won’t learn without mistakes and since she could call him back every time with the animals visible he just needed fine tuning. Getting him to return to us with the animals in his sight is the hardest trick of all to teach and that one we have done. The rest is just repetition. He wants to go in a straight line and pretends that the command “right” or “left” means run directly at whatever animal it is we are currently working. She got them out of the trees and headed back toward the house. We pushed them through the first fence and I closed the gate and worked the dogs as Annmarie’s voice was wearing thin as well as her patience. The cows don’t want to work easily as there is a calf in their midst. The reason we want them is so we can tag and band the calf and let the bull at the sequestered cows and yearling heifer.

The above picture is where the cows were the first time, the below picture is where the cows are after they got around the dogs and Annmarie because the dogs failed to turn them when they broke. They ran for the dry creek bed and went under the fence. I had not locked down the panels in the creek area yet. I usually do this later in the summer when we are trying to control access to certain areas of the pasture. I did shut the gate, even though it didn’t help. Sarah had to go to work so Annmarie and I and the dogs pushed them up the hill this time so we could run them across the top of the hill away from obstacles. This worked well and we got them into the barn lot fairly easily. We locked them in behind the barn and attempted to push them into the corral. Now it should be noted that before we went out to get these cows Annmarie asked me if we should not use the horse corral panels to build a funnel for the cows to go directly to the corral. I was opposed to this option as it meant more work. Well, this came back to haunt me as the cows would not go into the corral. The mean cow with the green ear tag would not go, she kept coming back at us and eventually ran past us. Annmarie is a huge proponent of gentle steady pressure when moving the animals. I am more of a holler and dog kind of guy. She got me to agree to make hamburger out of the green tag cow and to add her to the butchers list but even more importantly she agreed to go into the barn while I worked the cows with the dogs. The dogs did great and we pushed everyone right into the corral. She wanted to know why I didn’t do that every time. I stated that my method is only quicker part of the time and the animals tend to break away more as I use the dogs and shaker sticks aggressively. I just got lucky.

We powdered and sorted cows, the green tag cow went into the to be eaten in six weeks pen. We have a no scrotum bull that was wreaking havoc in the pens. He is in the to be eaten pen. He is is about 100# heavier than everyone else. We had a one nutter last time we killed and he was great eating. This one never had any testicles descend stupid problem number 15.

We managed to get the calf isolated to one pen and I went and got a tag and bander pliers. I like the calves to be under 30 days old but this one is more like 2+ months old. I am here to tell you that there is a world of difference when you are grabbing and catching one by yourself. I couldn’t get it by the neck but managed to snag a back leg. Have you ever seen those vibrating dumbbells advertised on infomercials that go back and forth and you are supposed to hold onto them? It was exactly like that trying to hold onto a back leg and getting drug around the pen. I knew that I needed to grab the opposite front and back leg and then flop him onto his side. But the execution of this was not happening. I could not get to the head of the animal. So I grabbed the other back leg! Now I have two of these pumping pulling weights attempting to jerk me off my feet. I got kicked in the chest and belly several times before it finally started bawling at the top of its lungs. I couldn’t take the physical, auditory and mental abuse any more. I let it go and we concocted a plan to get this stuff done. We decided to keep the calf and mother in the corral until I can get some help. We will feed them, let them into the old milking portion of the barn and fill the 35 gallon water trough. I realize that the cure for this is to learn to rope. I had rope to tie up legs on the calf but I could not get it to ground. Annmarie tweaked her back 3 days ago so she was forbidden to help wrestle the calf. On a good day I end up with bruises and sore for a couple of days.

After all of that Annmarie decided to give the green tag cow a butcher reprieve and she was put back in with our bull.

The bull and his 8 ladies needed to be pushed back out to get a double fence between them and the market cows. So the dogs and I stopped at the spring to get our fill of water before moving on. Zeke went upstream and made the water muddy for me to drink. This is part of the annual water quality check I perform. I have never gotten sick yet. As far as we know no one has over the course of the farm’s life. The spring head is only about 60 feet away.

The sheep just did not want to leave the shade or the front yard. We tried twice with the dogs but everyone was tired after 4 hours working animals and the lawn still needs to be mowed so we are going to leave them in for at least a day.

We called the state trapper on Friday and he returned our call today. He is coming out to evaluate our predator problem on Monday. We will get this sheep depredation problem under control. Someone suggested guard dogs and they do work, but they cost about $75/month per dog to maintain. We are not about to go into this yet as it costs us about $120/month for the two border collies by the time you add in food and all the vet bills. This is cheap help and saves us from having to pay a human being to help so it is totally needed but it is an ongoing cost and we like to keep those as low as possible.

Annmarie and the dogs were all tuckered out after the running around and a hearty breakfast.

Death knocketh at the door

It’s been a long week. I would have posted this three days ago, but we are having internet issues again. The sad reality is we have no choice but to accept our poor access. We live in rural hilly region of America and cannot get any other service than high speed internet of 1.5 Mbs through the phone line. This service is spotty as all get out and we had to call and complain again to the internet provider as the service did not work at all. They sent us a new modem and it works again. This is our third router in a year and the provider won’t let us use an off brand version due to “lack of support”. Since their service is so spotty we never know if its on the providers side or our modem and if we have an off brand modem they will always blame it. So I am having to drive into town and piggyback onto our daughter’s internet signal. Bubba has been working on the barn a few hours a day. I managed to get the tractor inside and in two hours we got about 60% of the barn torn up and near a door ready to be shoveled outside. The smell is very bad! All this heat and the moisture getting trapped is causing a faster than normal breakdown of the compost material. It is even causing a bad smell out by the cars when the wind blows toward the house. I am hoping to be done with the barn in a few more days. After he gets the barn all dug out and cleaned the chicken coop needs its annual cleaning also! The fun never ends at StewartCreekSomethings! We need the barn to sort the sheep one more time before putting the ram in with everyone. We need to sort off the sheep we are culling or selling before turning in the ram so that they don’t get pregnant. This needs to happen in July so that lambs are born in January. Doing that will allow us to have two sets of lambs born in 2019.

We are still feeding the barn cats but almost never see them. The cat food keeps vanishing and we spot the occasional cat running around the barn lot that we know is from our summer release program.

We are having predator issues again, but not with the chickens. We have only lost a few sheep over the last ten years but we have lost two this week and they were only a 200 yards from our house. After I spotted the last dead one Annmarie made an executive decision that we had to bring the animals into the barn lot every night. The next evening when she went out she found another carcass. It was an older ewe who had been gutted about 150 feet from the first kill. This was Monday evening. At 0400 the coyotes were in our upper pasture raising a ruckus and they woke me up. It was pitch black so I just ran out into the front yard and popped off a couple of 22 rounds into the ground to scare them off. If you live in the country this endeavor is best done in the nude. This did scare off the coyotes and no one was injured in the barn lot. I was woken up again Wednesday night at 0200 by a large group of coyotes hollering at each other on top of the hill. I repeated my rural scare tactic with my Walther P22 and tortured the ground yet again with three rounds this time. This seems to run them off but it is not fixing the problem. The problem is with food being this abundant they should not be attacking our sheep. We don’t think it is a cat as the carcass is just left on the ground and there are lots of trees right by the kill site so it would be easy to hide or stash a body up in the trees.

On a plus side after three evenings of running in the cows, the sheep and the two horses everyone is just putting themselves in the barn lot now. We just have to go out and shut the gate. We are hypothesizing that the animals feel more protected so that is why they come in at night or they are just learning a routine. It is now officially summer in Eastern Oregon. The back creek is dry, the wheat is supposed to be harvested next week, the summer weeds are flourishing and its hot!

My nephew and I have been working in the evenings for a couple of hours a night in an attempt to get the bull enclosure done. It is coming along but I have way too much wood! I ordered enough to do the entire corral in wood and with the metal panels I don’t need as much. I am sure we have enough wood to do the entire barn addition even enough to side the addition. But the wood is warping so i need to do it soon. Just one more thing to add to the list. Zeke got to work the cows the first couple of days as Mouse is injured. He got a large splinter and torn toenail on one foot. The vet had to fix it and while he was there they pulled out a couple of foxtail from one ear. This was not a bonus find as we paid for that removal also. So he is now $220 ahead of Zeke in vet bills. He won the most expensive dog category last year also so he is off to an early lead.

Sorting sheep

The sorted ewes waiting for us to be done. Today was sort sheep day and our daughter came out to help. The day started out good, coffee and breakfast with the wife. It went downhill after that. I took the dogs to go out and get the sheep. They had squeezed through the gap in the upper prime pasture and were in with the cows. The trouble with this is even on the way out to the sheep the dogs did not want to listen. It went downhill from there. I had no voice by the time I got the sheep into the barn lot. No one would listen, each dog thought he knew best and chose to just ignore me. We had to choke down the dogs several times as dominance was the issue. It was excruciating to be around, probably the worst day in the last year. Usually when one dog is off its game the other will work but today neither one wanted to step up to the plate and play ball. Annmarie and Sarah got the sheep into the barn and started to sort them. I really felt like a third wheel as there was not really anything for me to do. I did end up catching a boy that got into the girls and a girl that got sorted into the boys.

The boys waiting to go to the orchard. They will be the companions for the new ram we are getting on Saturday. We are going to keep the ram off of the herd for at least a month.

Our chute system is so nice! It was expensive but in all reality it is super efficient with two people but one person could do it. We sorted 101 sheep in an hour using the chute system. We even managed to snag the new baby and it was a girl so I only had to put a tag into its ear. We have had around 400 lambs born on the farm since we have moved here. I just keep ordering higher number tags so we can keep a running tally.

Annmarie took these pictures while they were sorting the sheep and I love how they turned out! I had to add them to the blog. Sarah did a great job helping us today.

After the whethers got moved to the orchard, this involved the two noncompliant dogs and a lot of yelling and swearing. I went out to mow some more grass and weeds.

I had not been to the upper pastures for the last two weeks. The weather and rain has been good for the weeds! Some of the weeds are over 6 feet high and very thick. I tried to mow next to the channel I dug in the upper prime squared pasture but I was just guessing where the channel was. I was doing pretty good until I got to the part where I had dug in a side channel. I tipped the tractor onto its side and had to stop it from rolling with the front bucket, which caused the water to dam up. I had to walk back to the house and get Annmarie and the pickup. I gave directions to her while she drove through the field that she cannot tell where the ditch or fence or anything is located. She did not like this. I chained up to the back of the tractor and ran the chain over the top of the mower so when she pulled my back upper wheel was pulled down into the dirt. This took three tries to let me get the bucket and the mower rearranged after each attempt until she pulled me out. She was a little hesitant to drive out but I assured her that if she went in a straight line back to the gate she would be okay. She made it without any difficulties. I kept mowing for another 3 hours. I have a good 8 hours more of mowing to do to get all the weeds knocked down. After two weeks I will then spray the fields and kill all the weeds and grass that are growing. After that I will hit it with the discs again.

Annmarie texted me that dinner was ready so I started to make my way back to the house. Just along the fence by where we store the fencing and gate supplies the weed were growing well. I thought I would get in there with the tractor and clean it up. Now I was unable to burn this this year as my nephew did not move his trailer and I didn’t want to burn with it that close to the fence so there are still a lot of dead tumbleweeds alongside the fence. I didn’t know I was in trouble until the tractor slid down the embankment and into the fence. The mower is caught behind the wooden fence post and I cannot get out again! I am going to have to go out, disconnect the mower and cut the fence in half so I can just drive the tractor out. I am pushing on the wire almost a foot now I just cannot get it out. So now I will need to fix the fence directly after retrieving the tractor so the alpaca don’t get out. If its any consolation dinner was excellent.