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.

Crawling along

I was only able to fence on Saturday and Sunday this weekend as I had to work on Friday. I have to say that if you don’t need to wear the waterproof overalls, coat and boots then don’t, cause that much rubber will keep you dry from the rain but if its not freezing you will sweat a gallon of water inside it. I was able to work all weekend in just the rubber boots and it was pleasant. Now the wind kept gusting then vanishing so I kept taking layers off then putting them back on but at least I can change the layers. I got all of the wooden posts set on Saturday. I had about 1/3 yard of gravel left over and I tossed it on top of the culvert. The culvert has a nice 6″ layer of gravel over it. Saturday afternoon before going inside I loaded the pickup with 2×6 boards so I could go out first thing on Sunday morning and start installing H-braces. I was worried about having enough 2×6 boards left from the corral build but after loading them I had 16 in the back of the pickup and in the end only used 14.

I was going to install the H braces and tighten them with wire but Annmarie wanted me to clean out the pickup and install the stock racks on it before dark so after doing three complete braces I realized I was going to have to stick to just cutting the boards and screwing everything together. I will come back and tighten all the H braces later. Each cross piece is made out of two boards screwed together. Because I kept each brace 6-8′ apart I was able to use one 2×16′ board on each brace. This left me with two full boards over the spring and two full boards to connect the long straight stretches. I need those boards to keep the bull from just lifting the fence at these intersections which he has learned to do.

I had some visitors while I was down by the old schoolhouse. All of our cows in the lower fields came out to see me. Zeke keeps jumping the yard fence to come see me also. I have either been making him stay in the back of the pickup or lay under the pickup for a few hours. Annmarie tells me at night that he doesn’t look like he hated spending the day with me. I just wish he would stay in the yard.

I was able to get the stock rack on with some help and we will be sorting sheep on Monday to send two whethers to the college for butchering Tuesday morning.

Getting ready for winter

Yesterday, I got up at 0408 and was out the door, after cooking myself breakfast by 0428. Now it was only a ham, egg and cheese hot sandwich but it was breakfast. I wanted to get out early while it was cool so I cold mow with the rental tractor and hopefully not have it overheat. It had headlights and I had already filled it with fuel the night before. It was only about 15 degrees cooler and I had to stop three times before it got light due to overheating. I even took an air tank down to blow out the radiator. This worked the first two times until I ran out of stored air.

Annmarie called me back up to the house to help her get dressed. She has had some horrible muscle spasms in her back. I did and she got a deep tissue massage and is on the mend now. She thinks she will now survive, yesterday she was not so sure.

After a few more hours I had to head to town to get money for the cow hay I was picking up today. I stopped at the bank, the bakery (a pastry of some kind was calling my name, it turned out to be a peach filled deliciousness), the coffee shop, the seed place (grain elevator) and then convenience store. The only place that did not bat an eye at my dust/soot covered countenance was the seed silo. He just wanted to know if I had an account, I don’t or had cash or check. I then mentioned that a pastry was going to save me as I had to get change to buy it and I needed $252 for the seed. I was saved by a pastry and a coffee!

While I was at the seed silo I enquired about winter beardless barley. Its what I really wanted to plant but they only had spring barley and I am not sure I can get into the mud pit this upcoming spring. I then asked about a grain based hay seed and the guy said “club wheat”. He said a lot of people are turning it into hay. It only cost $14/50#.
Annmarie and I had talked the night before and triticale had come up as we fed it one winter and all the animals liked it. So the triticale was only $18/50#. So I bought 800# of triticale seed for the upper 7 acre pasture. You are supposed to seed it at 80#/acre. Since there is no magical setting on the seeder and I have to guess and adjust on the fly I figured I better have a little extra.

I came home and planted 2 acres. The harrow had a hard time as the soil was hard, rock filled and there was a lot of plant matter. I had to adjust the seed rate several times and ended up planting the 2 acres and then opening up the seed grate and running over the entire two acres quickly with the harrow to get seed to drop out at the right rate.

Tex came first thing in the morning so we could tag and band the sheep before picking up the cow’s hay from a nearby seller. Tex used Daisy (his red heeler pup) to help move the sheep around. I had him keep her on a lead rope so she could not get away. At four months old she liked chasing the animals and was excited to work.

After we tagged and banded the left over sheep, I went to the post office to pick up our baby chicks! We ordered 25 pullets for $100 all inclusive cost. Since they have to be about 6 months old before they lay I like to start my chicks in the late fall so come spring time they are old enough to start laying and I feed them through the winter at their smallest. I usually brood them in the house for a couple of weeks but I just started them out in the coop this time. I had to send Tex to Pendleton as the rental tractor had a flat front tire. I took care of the chicks and setup while he got the tire fixed. Once he got back, I started driving the trailer back and forth to pick up our hay. Unfortunately, I can only carry 5 large bales at a time and I had to transport 36 bales, a total weight of 25 tons. In between trailer loads, Tex moved some old irrigation pipe, got the cow feeder panels into the bull Alcatraz and hooked up the seeder to my tractor.

My tractor came back from the shop today. Someone (had to be me, despite my lack of memory) put regular fuel into the diesel tractor. I didn’t really understand how bad this is. After the rental cost and tractor repair the wrong fuel mistake cost us around $1000, this was a very expensive lesson. I will now be buying a third yellow fuel can for diesel to prevent this in the future.

We got all the hay put away and ready. We were going to do cows today, but didn’t get done with hay until 1600. I was tired and did not want to go wrestle with cows so we will be doing cows on Monday!

My goal tomorrow is to disc the three acres I have mowed in the 7 acre field. I need to get the soil broken up and rocks picked so I can get in there with the power harrow and plant triticale. The goal is to get those three acres planted by tomorrow evening. That will leave me with two more acres still to mow and plant. The middle seven acre field needs burned and disced and mowed and some soil moved around. I am saving it for last.

After dinner, Annmarie asked me to go get the sheep. They were visible from the kitchen window. I put on my shoes and Annmarie asked me if I wanted the dogs, my reply “the sheep like me I won’t need them”. I called the sheep onto the back hillside but they did not want to come into the ram pasture. I ended up on the back hillside with the sheep spread out every where and no dogs. I tried to call Annmarie as I could see her through the kitchen window. NOPE, I had left my cell phone on the kitchen table. I went old school and pulled out my white handkerchief and started waving it around. It only took her about 2 minutes to spot me through the window! When she came out the door I hollered for her to let the dogs out. Five minutes later the sheep were in the ram pasture. I was still on the hillside and had asked Mouse to guard the gate opening. Zeke and I were ambling down the hill when I looked up and spotted mouse chasing down two sheep that had broken from the herd. I started hollering and he reached up grabbed the ewe by the throat and tossed her to the ground. It took him about 1 second to roll her onto the ground. He didn’t hold onto her neck as she dropped to the ground and when she got back up she went right back to the herd. This is why Mouse loves to work the cows, he can be very aggressive. This is why Zeke loves to work the sheep, he just needs to run around them and stare them into submission. Unfortunately for them both, they have to learn to do both.

Vacation day 2

Tex was raring to go at 0700 today, he didn’t even bother coming inside just started digging the post holes we had started yesterday. I had filled them with water several times yesterday in hopes they would be easier today. Tex said they were much easier to dig today.

We set the first three posts, installed the woven wire by using the pneumatic staple gun to hold it to the 4×4 then installed the 2×6 boards. Once that was all done we hung the first gate, a 4′ human gate that we will use on a daily basis. While Tex worked on installing the hinges I stapled the wire to the backs of every 2×6. This stiffens the wire so the dogs cannot think they will be able to push through.

We installed the middle gate post next then wired the 10′ gate up to it and installed the post for the next gate. Again, we put up all the posts, the wire and the three boards before we hung the gate off of the end post. Both gates work very well, there is a high spot in the yard that the larger gate hits and will need to be knocked down with the box blade later. It was noon at this point and Tex had to run home so we took a lunch. I went in and sat down for almost an hour. I forget how tiring it can be to work with Tex a 22 year old hardworking person.

Again, by 1500 we had the fence pretty much knocked out. I was even able to use the tractor to level out the area beyond the fence so its not a hazard in the winter to go to the chicken coop. There were a couple of holes that you didn’t want to inadvertently step in or you risked falling down in the snow.

I even remember to go out and check on the nectarine tree. I picked the last two left on the tree as the other 16 had fallen off. I was late, they were very good as we ate them for desert after dinner. Tomorrow we will finish cutting the boards hanging over the ends of the fence. It is raining again tonight so I will be able to put off painting the fence until next year.

Annmarie complained of both Gizmo and Mouse smelling tonight so she gave Gizmo a bath and I did the border collie, Mouse. As soon as I had him dry he wanted to go outside which is normal for them. I let him in five minutes later and he is covered in dirt up to his chest! I had to take him outside this time, hose down his legs and then he tracked wet paw prints all over the downstairs floor. Both dogs smell much better!

We have several in yard projects tomorrow to finish as I don’t believe I will be able to burn due to the rain. I will try and write it all down in the morning during coffee. It is raining again and currently in the last 24 hours we have received just over 1/2″ of rain! Mother Nature just does not want to cooperate with me.

Sheep sorting

Sunday afternoon we opted to sort lambs as our buyer had contacted Annmarie Sunday morning. We were unsure how many lambs we had and needed to give an accurate head count. We also needed to sort them off so they would be ready and could just be driven into the corral and out the chute, in and out in 15 minutes is the goal. We used the dogs to move them into the back barn lot. We had already set up the barn for sheep sorting. Annmarie got them into the barn and decided to invite the dogs into the barn while I moved gates around outside. Next thing I know I hear her yelling both dog’s names and some violent movement in the barn. By the time I made my way into the barn she had both dogs corralled and placed into the hay room. I thought that Mouse had been the bad boy and lunged for one of the new mommas with babies. Nope, Zeke’s arch nemesis ewe had a set of twins, she would not back down and Zeke went for her throat. He has hated this same ewe ever since he was a puppy, she used to stomp on him. He has not forgotten her, and the hatred is mutual and expressed by both parties. We then proceeded to push about 2/3 of the herd into the back sorting area and tried to get them to go down the chute. The chute run was not a popular event, no one wanted to start the festivities. There was some grumbling amongst the worker types as to who should do what and where should they stand and when should they lean near the chute. Once that was all worked out in terse undertones the sorting began. Let it be said that I now wear my “I herd you” border collie T-shirt and Annmarie wears her “I can’t keep calm it’s lambing season” shirt when we sort sheep. I also like to wear the “I am sorry for what I said when we were working sheep” shirt, as it is far more relevant. Honestly, until you have done it and then had to redo it and then had to do it again all in the same day you will not understand. Now throw in some random animal craziness, stuff breaking and a dog escaping and you have reality.

We sorted off the lambs, I was supposed to be counting them and marking them by gender in my phone. I got done and had managed to count a total of 43 sheep to sale. I had Annmarie come down and count with me in the far pen. We counted several times and I got anywhere from 38-43. We finally just ran them back through the chute and counted again. We have 44 sheep for sale. We kept 8 for us and the locals that want to buy directly from us. We have 5 sold so far and we may take at least one. We pushed the rest of the herd out onto the back hillside and orchard. We will keep the for sale lambs in the back barn lot and just feed them hay for a day. He will be here Monday afternoon to pickup the sheep.

Before the sheep sorting adventures, our progeny, sent me a link to an auction that was only 13 miles from the house. I went to said auction and picked up a very nice leather wrapped chest for $70 and an old hand water pump for $35. I found a bunch of semi precious stone jewelry and spent the other half of my money on it. Annmarie was very happy with my finds. I will need to get the outside of the chest clean as it is very dusty and the leather needs conditioning. I am looking forward to what it will look like when it is all cleaned up.

Hoss is working on getting the loaner hay equipment back on pallets so we can get it shipped back. Our hay equipment is supposed to arrive on a freight truck on Friday. I plan on cutting hay on Saturday. I am hoping to get another 5 ton baled.

We need to use bull Alcatraz

Annmarie called me on Wednesday, while I was at work to let me know that the bull was out. When I went to answer her call I noticed that I had a text on my phone from a neighbor saying our bull was out. Her call was that he was out and she had managed to get him into a neighbor’s corral and needed me to bring the horse trailer.

So I drove home and got Hoss to back up to the horse trailer. We have not used the trailer since we bought it two years ago. We knew it would be needed. Hoss and I had to unload the wood out of the trailer before we could use it. It had a flat tire and the spare was flat. Luckily, I knew there was a tire pump in the pickup we just needed to get there to use it.

We were able to back right up to the corral and use two panels to make an alleyway and the bull just went right into the trailer. Usually the bull pushes through a creek crossing or gets through the wires. Hoss will look at the fence line after they get the bull put away. I convinced Annmarie that we should put the bull up with the steers in the upper prime pasture as we just fixed that fence. I went back to work as they unloaded the bull.

Annmarie called me again at work in the early afternoon to say that the bull was out again!! This time he had gone the other way and headed up the creek. Annmarie headed up with the pickup and dogs to push him our way. I headed home early. I should have stopped at the house and change shoes, but I knew that Annmarie wanted to get done as our company had just arrived and she had left them alone at the house.

As I was driving up the gravel road looking for Annmarie I called her and she hollered stop I see you as I drove down the road. She had been with the uncooperative bull and the two deaf dogs for over 45 minutes. One would not know that she was to be ordained this week as a priest!! Mouse thought that the only way to move the bull was to grab his tail or bite his heels. I ended up having to walk up to the bull and take over the dogs as they had gotten ahead of Annmarie. I got him down to the road and let him out onto it. He started ambling home and I went and got my car. I could see Annmarie coming off the hill but the bull was going out of sight. Once Annmarie saw the car moving a steady stream of yelled comments began and I ended up stopping, getting out and chasing the bull on foot while Annmarie drove the car. The dogs, I and the car pushed him back to top of our property and he turned down and started headed home. We got him into the corral and locked him in. He will be staying there until Sunday so we don’t have to chase him down again. It took us two hours this time to get him.

The next day the bull had a pretty bad limp. He has a bad left front foot and when he walks too much it bothers him. He was not getting any sympathy from either one of us its his own fault.

Population boom

It has started again, the sheep are lambing. Of course Annmarie is out of town, but luckily all of the sheep but one were in the orchard. When I let the dogs out this morning I was pretty sure I heard a newborn lamb. I say this because they make a very distinct sound that only lasts a few days, after that their voice changes. It is odd but honestly you can hear newborn babies. I looked up on the hillside at the lone sheep who had snuck out of the orchard and she had at least one lamb, turns out she had twins. Hoss and I pushed her back into the orchard with another loner who made it out. They are crawling through the ditch. When it flooded this spring it lifted it out of the water. I will need to fix it tomorrow but I am going to have to put on my waders as my normal knee high boots are not going to keep me dry. Hoss and I also turned on water in the orchard and started to water the grass. We have not watered it at all this year. We then went out to finish digging all the post holes.

Hoss has been working on getting T-posts pounded into the ground and trying to finish the holes I started. It is too late in the season to be attempting new post holes in our ground. He has been filling the holes with water and digging out 2-4 inches every day. Today we tore it up and got every hole drilled that we needed. Some just required time, some needed finesse and some we had to dig out by hand. The tractor auger will sit on top of the clay but if you dig it by hand it will be much faster. We had to dig out five by hand. We have 24 done and ready for posts now. On Sunday we will fill the pickup with gravel and set as many posts as we can. I set all wooden posts with gravel now. They stay in place better and it cuts down on the weeds growing around them. Which makes it less likely for me to burn up the wooden post.

Hoss stated that yesterday he got stung 4-5 times by the yellow jackets in one particular place. The blackberry bushes were right up next to the fence location. He gave up. Today I took the tractor in there and shoved the bushes back five feet and knocked down the weeds. I did not get stung a single time. I think he was exuding fear.

We came back to the house to look at the hay mower. It needs more than a couple of bolts. I need to tear apart the cylinder, find the correct bolts, remove the broken bolts from the welded in place nuts straighten the blade arms and put it all back together. This is going to take a couple of days. I will need more tools.

Once I realized it was going to take more than a couple of hours we moved onto the next project. I decided to finally move the panels in the bull enclosure so that any animal can take itself to water. We had a trough initially and it worked for the horses but the sheep we had to water separately in buckets. So we moved a panel out into the channel and added two more. They were very hard to get unpinned and moved. The fence is incredibly strong. I will need to add in a gravel pathway so the animals do not sink into mud when getting a drink. I had 20 more yards of gravel delivered last week. I knew we would need it for the fence posts and the skinning pole. I will need at least five yards just to fill in under the skinning pole. I am looking forward to not having to work in the mud when skinning an animal.

We moved the horse trough down to chicken coop. I want to level a spot under the eaves of the old house so that the rain helps keep it filled and then I want to get goldfish! I think they can survive the winter. They are cheap and I miss having fish.

Zeke, our herding border collie, keeps getting out of the front yard. I was certain that he was jumping over one of our gates. He got out again today and ran into the upper fields to harass the wildlife. So I added new slats to the gate to make it too tall for him to leap. I then ran to the store for a quick errand knowing he was secure. When I got home he was outside the fence again. I have no clue how he is doing it. I am going to have to install our game camera up onto the trash can to watch the front fence and see where he is getting out. I suspect he is going over it I am just not sure where. Take my advice, do not teach your herding dog to get over, under, through every fence when herding because you are just creating a containment nightmare for yourself. Until we figure it out he goes on the overhead run now whenever we are not home.

We also installed some metal equipment rims in the old oak tree spot down at my Mother-in-laws today. I am not sure how it will be received so I am holding off on pictures until later.

After a solid 8 hours it was time to call it a day. I sat out in the rocking chair, drank some water and ate Sorbet! It was very good and incredible after a hot day. It was 90 degrees today. Our back creek is still running which is amazing. I suspect it to end by August.

The sheep are popping babies out everywhere. We had three sets of twins and at least one single born today. I called Annmarie and she said it was time. I thought they were all due in August. This means next week we have to get the barn functional so we can sort off the market animals and the new babies. The babies will need to be tagged and banded. We also need to track their mother and birth date! Since I could not get close today I will take out the binoculars tomorrow and I should be able to get tag numbers and quantities born. I will even use our new tracking software!