Forever Friday 20/42

It’s getting there, tomorrow is the big day, the halfway mark! I am so excited about it that I needed to mention it today.

Monday was a great day. We got our company out the door and on the road first thing. They are going to stay on the coast for a couple of days. We are headed to the coast at the end of the month if everything doesn’t burn down before then. There are fires everywhere and we are not even in the official fire season yet. We had another neighbor stop by around 2100 to tell us we had a sheep out on the road down by four corners. Our sheep are pretty distinct and everyone around us knows what they look like. We drove down there in the dark and sure enough we spotted a boy lamb out on the road. I use the term lamb loosely as he is nine months old and full grown almost. I was supposed to drive up and drop Annmarie off so she could chase the lamb up to the gate I was going to open. It did not work that way and the lamb got away in the dark. We gave up and came home and the lamb was up at the grain bins eating on the hay with the alpaca. We have no idea how he got there. We opened the gate up into the orchard hoping he would go in there overnight. He did along with a bunch of alpaca but we locked them all up in the orchard anyways. There is plenty of green grass for everyone and the lamb can hang out with the alpaca for a few days.

Tuesday I had to fix the spring fence crossing as the mother in law wanted the cows to be able to come in near the house. She feeds them apples and they eat her yard clippings but the bull broke through the crossing and it still needs repaired.

This required some planning as I had originally added a low cable to prevent the bull from crawling under but attached it to two screwed in anchor rings. The bull pulled one out and the other looks like a question mark now. I wanted the water to be able to pull them out. Not now, I wrapped them around the bottom of each pole and clamped them in place! I also turned the long panel 90 degrees it was all along the spring crossing. Instead I only attached four feet to the crossing and tossed the other 12 feet out into the water bed. I also lashed a wooden pole to the distal 1/3 to make it hard for the bull to lift it up. My hope is he will be standing on it as he tries to lift the crossing. Lastly, I put up T posts close together to force the bull to walk toward the panel in the waterway. I did not attach any wire or fencing to the T posts as the bull just hooks fencing with his horns. he cannot pull the T posts out of the ground with his horns if there is nothing attached to them. I opened the gate when I was done, the cows can now come into the field.

Once I finished bull proofing the spring ditch I went onto laying the bridge in place. I even added two more railroad ties to the side so it is super easy to drive across now. I need to attach a piece of plywood over them so they stay in place better. Now I just need to start working on the wooden posts so the fence can get rebuilt.

The dogs also spotted another tree rat. Luckily for us the dogs staring up at the tree and refusing to move is a good indicator that I need to go out and eliminate the problem. We do not need another batch of freeloaders on the place. Problem temporarily solved as this is the second one the dogs have spotted this year. We have never had them before.

Wednesday I had to take the child to work and get her deer clobbered car worked on. I came home and jumped on the tractor, I wanted to take 2-3 loads of gravel to the far side of the bridge and then switch out to the post hole auger so I could start building fence! I made it 20 feet before the tractor tried to roll downhill on me. The back right tire was completely flat!

It took me a while to get the tire off and then I had to add a bunch of blocks underneath to make sure the tractor did not sink down onto the rim. It literally took all day to get the tire fixed. They were kind enough at the shop to only charge me for the inner tub, no labor due to the long wait. I managed to do all my errands in town and have the pickup break down in the Bimart parking lot. I had to replace the positive terminal clamp as it had rotted. I had all the parts I needed after three trips back into the store for items.

I even drew up a wiring diagram for the side by side to add the second battery. When I got home I looked at the charging switch I got and realized that I will need to redraw my wiring diagram! I am also going to hard wire in the spray tank switch to the dashboard. I want the sprayer to draw from the marine extra battery.

I was even able to install a new shower head and I knew it was needed but I showered directly after the install and I should have done that six months ago! It is amazing.

Forever Friday 15/42

Thursday was the day it all came together, literally. Mr Professional came out and we poured concrete into the bridge footings. Nine cubic yards all mixed on site and shoveled into the concrete blocks. I realize this doesn’t sound very impressive but trust me if you were the one shoveling or mixing the concrete you would know that it is a lot of concrete to do at one time.

We did the half closest to the house first. Early on we figured out that we might not have enough concrete mix so we started adding gravel to the mixer to stretch it out, we gained about 30% more concrete which was just enough to finish the entire job. My helper had to go run some errands during the mid day so I took a nap in the pickup after minimart lunch and then slept for another 30 minutes on the hallway floor. The ceramic tile is very cool and if you are overheated it will suck the heat right out of your body. It is a little hard but life is about trade offs and the cool down experience is what I was hoping to accomplish.

We started back up after we moved power, the hose and the mixer to the other side of the spring. We thought about using the tractor again to move the mixer but just ended up manhandling it the 20 feet across the water ditch. I have even decided that I am going to get some sun and set a timer for one hour and went shirtless. My plan is to do that every day I am outside. I don’t want to get burnt but I feel better with more sun. I realize that the long sleeve shirt and scarf and hat are necessary if I want to stay out all day in the sun.

On the uphill side we decided to go with a solid wall as the upper hillside area is putting more pressure on the wall. The bridge is just over five feet wide. My actual bridge that floated off is only four feet wide but since I was the only one who could get the four foot wide tractor over the four foot wide bridge it needs that extra one foot. Once Tex tried to dump the tractor into the spring by missing the bridge it had an extra railroad tie added. That will be even worse now as they will drop down over a concrete wall.

I won’t set the bridge for 3-4 days to let the concrete cure. I will be starting in on the fence next. It will be a joy to try and dig holes in the middle of summer. I see myself starting a bunch of holes and filling them all with water and letting it soak in for a few hours and drilling and water and repeat until I can get deep enough to set a post. I am going to create anchors on each side of the fence by making large rock cribs and then just cow panels down to and over the water. This way during a flood the cow panels can float up wards after the water pushes out the staples. The water will even be able tear out the fence posts next to the spring. This will result in me only losing a single post on each side of the water. This amount of damage is very easy to fix. Redoing the entire fence 30 feet back from the water because the woven wire fence held and it sequentially ripped out every railroad tie attached to that piece of wire, not cool.

I had a very nice surprise as my department staff at work sent me out two bags full for a care package. I have already started eating the candy and jerky and drinking the coffee! It was a very thoughtful gift and I am very appreciative. Even more so that everyone is allowing me the time away from work. That gift is the most needed. Someone offered Annmarie the choice to extend my time off a little longer, she told them that I would be ready on day 43 to return to work!! I am definitely disrupting the routine at home. I love her very much and know very few women who would put up with me. Always marry your betters, the best advice I can ever give to another human being. They will make you a better person.

Forever Friday 11/42

Sunday was spent doing a few inside chores then going outside to push the large bales together from Saturday. The bales are too heavy to lift with my little tractor as it only lifts 800#. I left the manure forks on the bucket so that gave me another 20” of pushing ability. I figured out quickly when filling up the machine shed that it was possible to get a second layer of bales lifted onto the first with some appropriate juggling. Push the potential top bale within about three feet of the bottom row, then stand it up on end and then quickly push the top so it is now leaning upright. Then take the tractor bucket and put it under the bottom of the bale, reach back and lower the box blade to prevent you from tipping sideways or backwards. As you lift the bale, back the tractor up this will cause the bale to pivot and allow you to lift it so it is parallel to the top of the bales then quickly push it forward onto the top of the stack! Now you have double stacked the bales! This sounds easy but it took some trial and error and the tractor being on two opposing tires before I managed to perfect the technique. The alpaca are loving the all you can eat buffet. They are so lazy they will lay down and eat. We have all the hay we need for winter on the farm. I would still like to get 2-3 tons of straw for the barn floor and some protein tub licks for the cows.

Annmarie saw a video for onion jam over the weekend so she made some yesterday. It doesn’t have a lot of ingredients but it does take about two hours to cook down and caramelize the onions. She made four pints with 8 pounds of onions. We are going to see how it does, its for meats and soups as a spice. If we like it we will be doing it again next year but may have to buy some onions.

Monday I puttered around the house in the morning, made bacon and eggs for breakfast and ended up outside in the afternoon. I had plans for Mr Ears to dig out the holes for the bridge footings but he was unexpectedly detained and unable to come out to the house. So instead I painted a spot out for both footings and dug one out! It was not easy between the tree roots and buried rocks. I had to use the breaker bar most of the time and only had to break two rocks in half that I could not get out. I set the blocks so they are overlapping and then back filled around them. I will pound in rebar next then we will fill them all with concrete. I want to make one sold piece of concrete for the footing so when it floods again the footings just stay in place and the water will tear out the bridge and the fence. I am going to put breakaway panels on the fence so the water can just push it away from the posts. I am going to anchor the upper sections of fence with rock cribs so the breakaway portions of the fence will give away first. This will cut down dramatically on the amount of fence I actually have to repair in the event of a flood. It took me about four and a half hours to dig the footing and set the blocks and backfill it. So I expect it to take me another 7 hours to finish the other side as the rock wall was only two blocks high not four and that will need to be completed first. Once I have both bridge footings completed I will mix and pour the concrete. I purchased 40 bags so 20 bags per side, hopefully that will be enough.

I really need to cut off the lower section of the trailer fenders as I kept bending them back against the trailer tires when I was moving the large bales around and pushing them off the trailer. It involves a lot of tractor brute force and just getting the bale part way off and driving away in the pickup letting the bale fall off the rest of the way. This is rough on fenders.

Forever Friday 9/42

I did it, I have a new cell phone, I went backwards and purchased the cheap Apple SE 2020. I loved the small size and the larger phone do not fit in my pocket well, especially after you put them in a case that is break proof. I drop my phone at least three times a week, not including all the dirt and dust and bouncing around it does on a weekly basis. The screen seems more responsive and I don’t have to juggle it around in my hand to make it work one handed. All of these are necessities for keeping up the blog.

I spent Friday doing a few odds and ends around the house. We have company coming next week so some cleanup and organization is in order. More concrete blocks were needed for the front spring and bridge in the barn lot. I had planned on driving to Hermiston but found them locally for the same price! I ended up picking up 132 blocks, 40 bags of Sakrete and 200’ of rebar, around 7000 pounds of material. This was good as my trailer only holds 7500#. I managed to get the trailer into the ram pasture and took 90 minutes just before dark to unload them all. I did not want to unload them all at once but I needed the trailer on Saturday to pickup the 40 tons of hay necessary to get us through the winter.

I have decided that I need to lay in and pour two footing for the bridge in the barn lot. This way when the bridge gets washed away I can just find it and set it back on top of the concrete footings.

Saturday start time was 1000, this is nice every once in a while. I had 20 ton of triticale and 20 ton of grass/alfalfa combo to pickup a few miles outside of town. I can only carry 5 of the large bales at a time and had 62 to pickup! The round trip times varied from 26-46 minutes depending on what was going on. I did not finish until around 1730. Once I go to the house I just shoved them off with the tractor. They are too heavy to lift with the tractor. I will get them all organized on Sunday. I want to push as many as I can into the hay side of the machine shed so they are out of the weather. Those will be the last ones used for the year as they will be protected. I cannot lift a full bale so the stack can only be one bale high. I am hoping to get 16 bales under cover. The alpaca love the bales just laying around, they have been going from bale to bale sampling to see which one is their favorite. The bales also afford them the luxury of laying down and eating!

I did have to pause and try and pickup the dead kitten at my mother in laws house. It was in the shed in a red bag. She had a blind kitten that had some weird eye infection that would not go away and one of the nephews named it Frankenstein. She ran over Frank backing out of her garage. I could not find Frank in the red bag. So I called the wife and then the mother in law, it turns out frank was in a red bag inside of a cardboard box inside of a blue bag! Frank has been dealt with and is no longer with us.

Annmarie has made contact with a fiber mill in Idaho that we can drive to and drop off our fleece to be converted into yarn! They want a single fleece per bag so on Tuesday we will do that then we will schedule a delivery day and time! Unfortunately, none of the fiber that we stored out in the barn with the mice and rodents survived. So lesson learned, the fleece must be dealt with directly after it is removed from the animal. I will be creating and assembling a cleaning tumbler next year for the fiber.

I also started to apply epoxy to our gnome doors. I have more to do and obviously need some practice on working with epoxy. Our goal is to get these encased in epoxy and spread them everywhere around our yard and barn lot. Meathead is painting more and I will get those sealed up. I would like to have about 20 of these spread over the property.

Forever Friday, 6/42

I have not yet managed to make myself post every day, I keep getting closer but I am thinking every two days maximum should keep everyone up to date. On this lovely day 6 of my 42 Forever Fridays I decided to catch up for the last two days. I did not get any farm work done as my volunteer job needed me to spend the day doing it. Annmarie did hear the sheep out front, not where they should be, and lo and behold they were out. The sheep had come through the gate down by my mother in law’s house. This gate was magically open. You scoff? This really does happen! The gate was discovered and closed before the cows got out. I chased the sheep into the barn lot and shut that gate so now they can spend some time with the horses. I am not sure that the horses will appreciate these food competitors.

We have been trying to figure out where Zeke has been sneaking out of the yard. Annmarie was convinced he was still going through the spring crossing by getting down in the water and going under the fence. I was certain this was not so as we fixed the water crossings after the flood this spring. My money was on the spot just behind the trash can outhouse building. I did not carry the woven wire all the way to the building. There was a four foot gap and I was sure he was getting through at this spot, not sure enough to fix said spot though. Annmarie had some shoes she needed to drop off at her mothers and Zeke cannot resist sneaking out of the yard if she stops to visit. So I went upstairs to the breeze porch to watch. Zeke was in the yard watching her from the bridge until the car slowed down and parked at her mothers. He bolted across the bridge and was through the fence before I could blink! I ran downstairs immediately and he had already made it all the way down to Annmarie in that time! I called him back, told him he was busted. I tossed some woven wire over the fence today to be installed soon to stop the escape artist for a few more months until he finds the next weak spot.

I had two new candidates come out to the farm today for some indoctrination into the wonders of farm life. They are brothers and their mother dropped them off with lots of water and food to make it through the day. It usually takes me all day on day 1 to choose a Knick name for most of my helpers. It serves two purposes, it amuses me and it helps keep their privacy. The first one is why I started it but the second one is what I tell everyone! The plan was to have the barn done in four hours and then spend the rest of the time working on the barn lot fence, fixing flood damage.

I split them up immediately, this is a hard knocks learned thing, unless you want to listen to two teenagers bicker incessantly, always divide up the siblings. One worked on the momma/baby area and the other worked on the opposite end of the barn, basically not even possible to split them up any more and still be in the same building. I had to give a few lessons in how to use a pitchfork to get under the sheep excrement concoction and then how to use the shovel as a chisel to break up the cemented dry poop/straw combo off of the floor. It is much more efficient if you use the tools correctly, both parties needed a few different teaching moments. I had my first knickname within an hour of starting. Mr Nose was standing on top of a four foot pile of excrement concoction holding his nose trying to kick the pile out of the back door of the barn. The door is five feet in the air and I was moving the outside pile with the tractor over to the compost pile. I finally had to give Mr Nose instructions to not reach into the pile with bare hands as the pile was steaming. Once we start moving the poop it gets turned and loosened and starts to heat up immediately. Inside the barn it is so compacted that it doesn’t get a lot of oxygen so It never really heats up. This is the reason that once I start in on the barn it has to be completed quickly. Later I taught Mr Nose to use a metal rake, long strokes not 12 inches at a time.

I went to help the other sibling finish the momma/baby area, he had done 1/3 so far so the two of us finished the other 2/3. I am over three times his age and he had to work to keep up. The older I get the more I understand old codger jokes and their criticisms. We finished the barn at lunch time an hour over my four hour goal. Not bad, if you add up the 15 hours today to the 14 I had it only took 29 hours to clean out the barn! It will really take 30 as I have one more pile to move with the tractor but 30 hours is amazing and over 50% decrease in time over last year. I spent their lunch moving poop then we moved some of the new blocks we just got a couple of weeks ago. The plan is to line the bottom of the spring with blocks and the side with blocks and create a weed free, clean drinking area for the animals in the barn lot. During this block move I had two phone calls, hence the second knickname Mr Ears. One of the boys has very good hearing and was very interested to know with whom I was talking. He kept thinking it was his mother. I knew that no bones were sticking out, no uncontrolled bleeding was occurring and all four extremities were still moving, they were golden! No mom call was needed. He did not know this, but he did ask what I did for a living but I don’t think it sunk in. 90 blocks later all the blocks were moved and Ears and Nose had to restack the block pile as they kept trying to pull from the top ones and not get the ones off the bottom of the pile. I made them use the whole stack and then neaten up the pile when we were done.

Mr Ears and I pulled all of the old fencing out of the spring after we all cut apart the fences. I cleaned up the creek with the tractor where I could and we ended up cleaning up the barn lot area. Mr Nose was getting tired and had to be given tasks to keep him on point. I had him filling holes with water for a couple of hours. I need to be able to drill holes with the tractor but the ground is too hard. The water is a necessity to soften the ground. The garter snakes were out in force, we spotted five snakes and Mr Nose claims that one tried to bite him when he came across the culvert crossing. I think he stepped on its tail.

I had to leave early to go pickup an antique chair we purchased a few months ago. The boys walked around the farm out by the machine shed and picked up scrap metal and twine for an hour. I didn’t check how they did but I am sure it needs a couple more hours. I have spent at least an hour this week just pulling scrap metal out of the ground that keeps growing around the outbuildings. I am hoping that they come back again as we got a lot accomplished. I think it is possible for two of us to get all the blocks in place tomorrow if I have help.