Fooled me

The old black alpaca fooled me into letting him in through the side gate so he could get back into the orchard. He had been wandering on the back hillside alone for days then came down and sat by the orchard gate. I was out feeding the song birds and he kept hooting and mewing at me until I went over and let him through, Annmarie reminded me that all the gates were open and all he needed to do was just go downstream and walk through them. He was on the back hillside all alone wandering around just like the day before in a matter of hours.

The cows got out of their enclosure on Friday, last week. I spotted them from the living room window. It was almost time to go out and do evening chores but I knew that was too much work for me so I snuck out of the house without telling anyone. I took the dogs and we headed up to get the cows. Annmarie had opened a gate to give them more space and a side gate was open allowing them to get on the back hillside. Zeke and Mouse got them back in the correct field. I only had to walk straight up the bottom field hollering nonstop at the dogs. Mouse works for AnnMarie way better than he does for me but we got it done. When I turned around to come back Annmarie was at the gate watching me and waiting to castigate me for not telling her the cows were out and allowing her to help. I told her the dogs and I were capable of getting the cows in. She still had to do the evening chores and get eggs.
The chewed up chicken croaked. It will now get a trip to the boneyard. I thought it was gonna make it, as they usually die within the first 24 hours.
Mr Professional came out and fed the cows the same day. He even moved the dog house that was still sitting on the trailer to down by my mother-in-law’s. The cats will appreciate is. He put it under the porch in the back yard. I will need to move it around to the side near the back door leading up the stairs, but it will have to wait until I have some energy.

Been a doozy 2020

Well it has been a resounding and expected lousy ending to 2020. I ended up catching Covid despite living like a hermit and wearing a mask. I don’t say that to discourage hermit living or mask wearing as I believe those are two things that prevented me from getting it earlier in the year. I work in healthcare in an ER. I was getting exposed. The disease is horrible, some get just a little cold, some get no symptoms and some get deathly ill. I was in the middle and only wanted to die for a few days, oxygen saturation only dropped for a few days and I was able to stay at home and be miserable. I am now on day 11 and have been vertical since this morning which is a new record. I can tell when I start to overdo it as my head will start to pound. As long as I take it easy I don’t get a headache. In celebration of my feeling better I have started a ham for a batch of ham and beans. As the entire world knows, ham and beans will cure most of what ills you! Since it will be a large batch I will have to freeze some for use at a later date. I should really think about learning how to can my ham and beans! Honestly, just putting it in old yogurt containers and tossing it in the freezer is a lot easier. I wanted to thank all of those who have offered to help out Annmarie and I for the last couple of weeks. We have had food delivered a couple of times and Mr Professional has come out and fixed a little fence and kept the cows in large bales. Luckily, its wintertime and there are not a lot of projects going on. In January, I will need to start back up on the upstairs bathroom and get it done! I could of used that while I was sick.

Currently, that is my only project in the works. We plan on keeping the upper 7 acre field bare and idle this entire next year so it can be planted in grass. I do need to still rent a backhoe in the next 6 weeks to get the rest of the flood damage corrected in the upper fields. That has to happen or the upper fields will flood again. I am waiting on 3 custom gates to be made so they can be installed. Our cows should start having calves soon. I am going to see about getting last year’s financials published as I never did that.

  • Lamb update
  • 17 lambs born
  • 11 ewes delivered
  • 23 pregnant ewes(maybe)
  • 5 single lambs
  • 6 twin lambs
  • 1 bummer lamb
  • 16 lambs on the farm
  • 155% birthing rate
  • 145% production rate (goal >150%)
  • 100% survival rate at birth
  • 100% survival rate at 2 weeks (3/3)

Mr Professional came out to feed the cows and discovered that the alpaca had broken open a large bale. I was sick and asked him to just pick it up and feed it to the cows. Unfortunately for him the alpaca had laid claim to this bale and were unwilling to give it up. He was convinced the alpaca were going to bite him. Spit on him maybe but they are not biters. He was not convinced so I had him come to the yard and get our two border collies. He was going to only take one but that is not good when dealing with the alpaca. They will gang up on the dogs and the dogs have to be pretty agile and persistent to get them to move away. He came back for Mouse and then I told him to just turn them loose and the dogs would push the alpaca away. He didn’t have to do anything but encourage them to get them. It was over in five minutes, the dogs moved all the alpaca away from the hay so that he could pick up the hay unharassed. The dogs were happy as they got to work, the only one unhappy were the alpaca as they did not get to finish eating their claimed hay.

Crawling might be faster

I have spent 13 more hours working on the upper seven acre field. I am using the harrow/arena groomer on it to smooth it out but due to all the organic matter in the field the harrow keeps getting plugged. I have managed to build walls on two sides of the field from all the debris. This is causing me to have to go over areas multiple times to collect and remove all of the stuff. I still have about another four hours. This is causing me to have to reevaluate how the fields are going to get planted. I cannot do 20 acres at a time. It is just too much ground. I am going to have to only do 4-7 acres/year or look at getting someone to custom plant 15-20 acres for us. I just cannot do that much with my little equipment.

The kestrel and red tailed hawks, adults and this year’s nestlings, have finally gotten used to me running the tractor around in circles and patterns in field #1. They have started to watch for mice and dive bomb them after I have passed by. I saw both kestrels yesterday! I usually only ever see one but I spotted two yesterday and the new hawks don’t have their red tails yet. The wind has been blowing such that with the hill and updraft the hawks can literally float on the wind. I saw one stay in the same position for over 20 minutes and never flapped its wings once! It just kept twitching its wings causing micro adjustments in its wing shape. The pheasants are out in droves! I saw five roosters on the way to the field and again on the way back to the house seven hours later. They are not very jumpy this year which is highly unusual.

I have included a picture of me raking the leaves. You will notice the difference as there are fewer sheep and they are all very fat from eating all summer long. I like to switch it up from the me mowing the lawn pictures. After an entire morning grazing they are sitting out in the sun resting, it does not look like they made any progress on the leaves. This process may take a couple of weeks. I will be hard at work!

Winter is here sorta, it got down into the teens, temperature wise but this week it got to over 60 degrees during the week. It is not normal. It is supposed to rain over 1/2” by the end of the week. That is going to mess up my planting schedule. If I had not had to fix all the flood damaged fencing I could have spent those six weeks planting. Oh well, back to baby steps. One foot forward every day will get us to the finish line.

We had let the alpaca back into the cow area when I fed the cows last week. This lone black alpaca, we think Snoop, wandered off by himself. We thought he was lost so Annmarie herded him back out to his buddies. The first chance he got he got back in with the cows and then isolated himself again. We think he is just old and tired of the BS male dominance fighting. We are letting him stay by himself this time.

The chickens discovered a section of the new fence in the barn lot that I did not make chicken proof. It’s on the opposite side of the water and only about four feet long but they found it and have been using it to get into the flower area that I wanted them exiled from. So now I will need to fix that at some point.

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.