Machine shed miracle

Tex came out today, after breakfast we went out and started to fill up the pickup with burnables. The burnables are going on a big pile and it is just getting bigger. I worked on getting the second tank off its perch. I made sure to stay out of the way and gently started it rolling. The plan was to keep it on the deck to make it easier to load onto the scrap trailer. It rolled right off the platform and onto the ground.

We just kept moving stuff out and I kept dragging it out to the scrap metal pile. Once we had the tanks out of the shop it was short work to rip out the wooden deck that used to house the fuel tanks. It had the most awesome clear grain6x6 beams and and amazing piece of 3x8x20 foot beam perfectly clear. It made me want to cry as we threw it on the burn pile. All of the wood had fuel, oil, grease or chemicals on it. They had been using it as a storage area forever. I feel better now that it is not in the machine shed. I did manage to hit a nail with my head while we were tearing it apart. I was pretty sure that was gonna leave a mark, it did.

We got two bays totally empty so I started dragging the dirt out with the tractor. I finally had to remove the bucket from the tractor to gain more maneuvering room inside the shop. It looks great!

Unfortunately, moving dirt around has exposed a few problems. Two of the main support beams are rotten on the bottom as the dirt has piled up over the years. We will need to cut off the bottom six inches of two main beams and splice in a new piece. We will also need to fix an overhead broken beam. I am going to have to drag out about 8 inches of dirt on the right side of the machine shed. It looks like when they built the shop they accounted for a natural drainage slope. Over the years the dirt has piled up and that slope is not even any more. I will drag out the extra dirt and take it down to the correct height again. Once we get it all drug out I will order in some 3/4 minus gravel to put into the machine shed. I think 50 cubic yards should do it.

I also found one hole in the concrete wall. I dug out all the loose rock already so I just need to get some sakrete and patch the hole.

Annmarie was busy all day and got the container garden sprinkler system glued together. She has spent evenings and the last two weekends cutting and dry fitting pipe to make sure everything would fit correctly. Twice she came out to the machine shop so Tex or I could untwist a stuck fitting. It is going to be very nice to have this up and going again. As soon as that is done she is going to direct us in setting up the above ground sprinklers for the front hillside. We need those in place so we can start planting. She offered to help with spraying but we only have one tractor and I was using it all day. It doesn’t seem fair to expect her to do tractor work with no tractor.

Rock fencing

I would have started fencing on Friday morning but Tex was sick. I had plans of going to work until 1200 during which Tex would have been making progress but alas it did not happen. I still only went to work until 1200 then went shopping for more railroad ties. I looked at a new Ruger Mark IV 22 semiauto pistol. I need something a little more accurate than my Walther P-22. It’s on the want list now.

This morning Tex came out and I fed him breakfast to get started. Homemade hash browns, bacon and two farm fresh eggs over easy all cooked in bacon grease! It was good. One would have thought we would run outside to get on that fencing but the honey do list came first. We moved all the furniture back into the spare room and even left one piece out, an old wash basin stand. There was no real room for it. We filled the closet back up and now that I have shelves between the duct work in the closet I am using those 12″ wide shelves to store empty canning jars. They tend to accumulate and I run out of spots to put them before I make an attic run. Annmarie discovered my second stash of egg cartons I store in the closet also. I keep my third stash in the attic. We are good for about 2-3 years.

We then moved the display case out of the upstairs eventual bathroom and I replaced the broken leg on it. Annmarie cleaned it up. It had been there for 12 years. We just have to decide what to put in it. I have a large collection of medical supplies I have accumulated over the years.

We also picked out two maps from the late 1800’s to take in and get a price quote on framing. We have about 30 maps of our local area and initial townships that are hand drawn on linen backed paper. The question is which ones do we frame first?

I sent Tex out first to start cleaning up the front ditch fence crossings and tossing all the burnables onto the burn pile. I told him to just use the bucket of the tractor as a wheelbarrow. I stayed inside and did the dishes and a few more honey do items. When I went outside I started the fire and Tex kept bringing load after load of wet soaked rotting wood but he kept going to the same place in the barn lot. I grabbed my coffee and told him we needed to take a look. He said good cause he needs a chainsaw. He was cleaning up the entire spring head!! Those trees have been down for 11 years since I burnt out the 30 foot high tumble weed patch that was a tree grove. The only tree that responded to fire was the black walnut, it started to actually put on walnuts after that. So we had a discussion that I do want that cleaned out and he can borrow a chainsaw but we need to get the fence done in the barn lot first. That is a great task for when I am at work!

So I had him start tearing out the creek crossing that the bull and sheep kept going through. He is to remove everything from both railroad ties on the edges of the below picture. Anything burnable goes on the fire. It was a mess of wire, panels, rope and broken boards, along with flooding debris. While he was doing that I started to pick rocks. We needed rocks for the two rock cribs and alongside the creek to keep the dirt on the hillside.

I spent from 1000 to 1330 hauling rocks when I realized I was hungry again. We had a gourmet lunch, Nalley chili with Hill’s all beef hotdogs. The hotdogs got browned then the fry pan deglazed with fresh onions and garlic and all of it thrown into the chili, top it off in the bowl with some shredded cheddar cheese! That is a lunch that will stick to your ribs and keep you going for hours.

I went back out and picked more rocks. Tex started filling the rock cribs with the small rocks and the large rocks were saved to be used down by the ditch.

We got all the rock cribs filled, I put about 12 rocks in only, Tex did the rest. We then started to wrestle with the large rocks and tried to get them on a shelf down by the water. This was not easy and especially not easy after they roll down a muddy hillside and go into the front spring. Muddy wet rocks are not easy to move around. Tex managed to get most of his rocks into the creek.

I again fell into the water. I slipped on the muddy hillside and landed flat on my backside into the water filling my waterproof boots. We got all the rocks I had brought down near the water’s edge when Sarah came and told me it was 1815 and time for dinner. I had left my watch and cell phone in the house at lunch so I had no clue what time of day it was. It was quitting time anyways, Tex had rolled his second from last rock into the water and the two of us could not lift it up into place and could barely roll it into place. The rock was only about 150#. Earlier we had been moving several hundred pound rocks into place. Tomorrow I will get more large rocks and we will start putting up wire fencing. I would like to get flower seed on the ground.

Lambs squared

Annmarie said the sunrise was beautiful. I was inside nursing a cup of coffee and doing the dishes while she went out to check on the lambs. It has been 44 hours since our last post and we have only had one lamb born in that time frame. Honestly, sometimes the life of the farmer will make you crazy. The timeline is not set by you, its set by the animals and the weather. Even after all these years I want to drink coffee and take it slow in the morning and Annmarie has already been out to the barn and is now making us mashed potato, ham and onion pancakes for breakfast while I “blog it”.

The last 24 hours has been full of those teaching moments. Thursday night I woke up to Annmarie hollering “Chickens!” Followed by a slap to the chest. We sleep with the windows open year round and so when something is picking on the chickens we usually hear their death squawks, it is a very distinct scream. We have an automatic chicken door, if the stupid chickens would just go inside the coop before it gets dark then they would be perfectly safe. I have been getting eggs on a more regular basis but I don’t go out every night. I have noticed over the last two weeks that 1-5 chickens are protesting and refusing to head back to the coop until the automatic door is already shut. When I do go out and notice them I throw them inside the coop, unfortunately I don’t always go out and the predators seem to be more reliable than me when it comes to visiting the coop.

I leapt out of bed and grabbed my glasses and almost ran downstairs naked, but its cold outside and the death knell had already been sounded so I figured there was no saving the chicken. I grabbed the first bathrobe I could and ended up with a thigh high robe and headed downstairs in my slippers and robe to confront another chicken destroyer. I grabbed the trusty laser sight Walther P22 pistol and ran out the front door. I went right for the coop via the front yard. I wanted to catch the varmint in action! I spotted feathers as soon as I got out of the yard, there was a trail leading out of the coop yard door headed toward the barn. I started following the feather trail in hopes of finding the cause of said trail. I went over by the barn, looked in the front creek, flashed light over the hillsides and under barn to no avail. I headed back to the barn and spotted a chicken over by the old house. It was the source of the feathers and it was still alive! So I decided to leave it and complete my patrol. The last place to look was over on the dry creek side of the old house that runs behind our house. A HUGE fat raccoon was waddling away and he was already about 60 feet away. I quickly discovered a few problems. When you shine the super bright flashlight on the object of your desire, you cannot see the laser dot. 60 feet is a long way to shoot a pistol at a moving target and after three shots there is so much smoke, your super bright flashlight now makes it look like light is emanating from your head. To combat this shroud of light surrounding me I pointed the flashlight way off to one side and focused the laser dot near said enemy and blasted some more. All in all I hit nothing, Annmarie is now ribbing me about my shooting accuracy and just going out and plinking is not the same thing. So after the sheep are done lambing I will be going out after dark with my trusty Walther P22 pistol and shooting at my target in the dark with a flashlight only. I may have to resort to doing it in a bathrobe and slippers or just the slippers to mimic my combat environment. The battle was lost but the ongoing war is not yet decided. I will not give up!

So as soon as I get home yesterday I am walking down the sidewalk and Annmarie hollers from the barn that she needs some help. I expected this as we were going to try and go to the movies. The next words out of her mouth brought dread to my head. She cackles “you better bring the shoulder gloves”. There is only one reason to grab the gloves, someone needs help birthing a lamb. I have only had to assist twice in eight years and so far I have a ewe survival rate of 50%. Annmarie and I have this discussion every time I think I am going to have to pull a lamb out. I don’t like it. She says her dad did it all the time. I tell her she grew up on the farm so she should do it. She tells me I have helped deliver human babies so I have more experience. I tell her they are in no way the same as you don’t need a shoulder glove to help with a human birth! She then states I have done it twice already so am the more experienced as she has never done it so I get to do it again. This is typically done with me laying on the barn floor and Annmarie holding the ewe down. I dread it every time it comes up, we have the exact same conversation every time and every time I end up wearing the glove. I grabbed two gloves just in case and went out to the barn.

She had isolated one ewe and her single baby. The baby was huge and she was worried that a second baby was stuck. The mother was active, interactive with her lamb and eating and drinking. I told Annmarie I don’t go in until the situation is desperate. This was no where near desperate, personal crisis averted. We fed and watered the rest of the sheep, Annmarie had already rearranged the barn and added in the two wire gates. We will do some more pen building today.

After the movies I had to go out to the barn in the pouring rain to check on that ewe and her baby. Luckily I got some new mud boots this week and going through the mud pit to get to the barn is pleasant. I keep tying to plant some kind of grass or cover that will last the summer but this rock bluff gets parched and hot and everything dies in the summer.

Every picture has baby lambs hidden all over the place!

Wife rabbit punched me

I have been having horrible rib pain the last two weeks. Nothing I seem to do is making it better and it just persists. The odd part is it is all low rib and diaphragm region. It has been going on long enough that I had started accusing Annmarie of rabbit punching me in the ribs when I was asleep. I could not figure out what was causing the pain. Well I figured it out on Wednesday, it is my welding class. We are doing vertical SMAW welding (rod welding) and the way I am holding it in an attempt to get a passing bead is causing me to tense up my muscles. So for six hours a week I am tightening my diaphragm and rib muscles. They do not like nor appreciate the workout. I have quit blaming the wife.

The closet shelves look great and Annmarie has already started to put stuff on them so tomorrow I need to get some varnish on them. I am going to do it in the upstairs bathroom area so I can leave the vent fan on all night long. I got a little light headed when I put the stain on and don’t want a repeat of that with the varnish.

Earlier in the week I was lazy and with the weather being nice I fed the sheep out the side of the barn onto the ground. The sheep kept trying to sneak in through the door and get directly into the hay room. So every time I opened the door to toss out hay I had to be quick. As I was getting ready to head back inside I noticed one ewe picking the alfalfa leaves off of the back of our ram. He was almost green from standing under the door as I tossed out flakes of hay. She had figured out it was easier and more productive to just eat off of his back then dig through the hay on the ground.

I like to make a hearty breakfast when I am going to be working outside during the day. This lets me skip lunch and not starve to death, I had ham, potatoes and onions this morning then poured some green salsa over the top and it was wonderful. Our pig turned out very nice this year and the ham is very good.

I need to go pickup my 1×8 x8′ boards we purchased at the fundraiser but I need the flatbed trailer. I still had 20 railroad ties on it so today I hauled them off with the tractor. The only bad part is I have to manually lift all 20 ties onto the the tractor bucket one at a time. So I now have about 30 large wooden fence posts to use next year. I want to put several in the barn lot to finish stiffening the outer fence and cross fencing the inside.

I got a call this week from the water conservation district about our grant application to fence off the creek in a couple of places. This helps limit and control access to the water mostly for the cows. I can still use the sheep to go in and clean out the weeds alongside the waterway. This will also allow us to kill areas and then replant them which will cut down on the weeds. We should know by January whether we get the grant or not. We supply half the cost of the fence, which equates to all the labor to install it and have to purchase all the supplies in advance and don’t get reimbursed until the fence is installed.

I ended up moving scrap metal around to our metal pile behind the grain bins. I still have a pile over by the old house that needs to get moved. I will be seeing if I can put on an old tire onto my Toyota pickup bed trailer I got from the scrap yard. I can haul it around with my tractor and get it filled with all the metal from the old house. I also need to drag all the scrap metal and fencing in the ram pasture to the pile. If it doesn’t rain tonight and tomorrow I can do that in the late afternoon. This will get the ram pasture all cleaned up.

The chickens are not doing their part. We were down to two eggs a day and now that I have replaced the light bulb we are getting 4-5 eggs/day. I really need to off the slackers.