More white stuff

I went around this morning after chores and moved more snow! I made it a point to go behind the machine shop and clear that gravel road, so the trash guys can just drive around the loop. Having the trash picked up every week is a luxury in the country and I need to spoil those guys whenever I can because we really appreciate it. The cows are starting to get covered in snow as they are not going down to the old school house or the willows to shelter from the weather. I think they think they will miss out on a meal if they go down there. I can now open the gate wide open, leave it open and just drive out into the pasture and all the cows follow the tractor and ignore the open gate. the food is with me and they all know it.

I stayed outside this morning for 2.5 hours until my hands and toes started to go numb. They were pretty red by the time I got inside and warmed them up at the gas stove.

We had another single lamb born this morning. I got her and ther mother into the momma baby area. The only problem is that tonight when I went out to feed and water the mommas and babies I noticed a possible prolapsed uterus or afterbirth. The problem with this is the ewe is very wild and wont let me get close to her. She is on the watch list and Annmarie will let me know how she is doing in the morning. We may have to pin her down and administer some care to her against her will.

The quail are now coming every day to eat on our back hillside. I had forgotten to feed them and had to go back out and give them their quart of food.

I have a horror story about last night. I put another coat of Varethane on last night so I am back to sleeping downstairs in the craft room on the floor. I woke up at 0130 freezing to death! I was shivering and cold. I thought it was time to wake up. Somehow the half door had gotten closed stopping all heat from entering the room. I got up out of bed, opened the door and went out to the living room and turned up the heat! I also took every throw blanket off of the couch and dug the only one downstairs out of a drawer. I felt like a mummy when I crawled back into my bed but I did fall asleep without suffocating.

The two bully alpaca are stuck out in the orchard. They have melted down a body wide hole in the snow and maintain it. I hardly every see them up and about. I suspect this is what they do in the wild. The rest of them just go into the machine shed and find cover. It is supposed to snow another 4-6 inches of snow tonight. It is official this February we have received the most snow on record about the last 125 years. We knew it was not normal and we were right. Now it needs to melt off slowly in the mountains or we are going to have some major points of flooding.

It is really the middle of the night

Here are some pictures of the Bull Corral. I still need to get in there and use a harrow to tear it up and smooth it out. Everything is so dry and loose that I don’t want to get in there with discs I think they will go too deep. We are going to keep the horses in there for another five weeks. At that time we will have three of the cows slaughtered and they can then have the entire barn lot. The cows have free access to the upper prime lot so they can eat their fill. The horses were getting fat on that same all you can eat menu. They are quite vocal about being on rations. Mika would not come over to the fence and let me rub on her. I did not give her food until she acquiesced and let me rub on her face and side. I have learned that the horses are just like the dogs with that group mentality. You have to be the leader or they just won’t do what you want. Once you are the established leader they are much happier.

Annmarie woke me up at 0200 Thursday night, actually Friday morning to tell me a cow was mooing. Now in her defense at 0200 I am not thinking straight so she prefaces this with the following statement “Before you say anything that will speed up your ability to go to sleep when was the last time you heard the cows pitching a fit in the middle of the night?” I did actually pause before talking and I also heard the cow let out a moo. The moon was incredibly bright and it was very light outside so I went with that excuse first. It didn’t work. She got up to go outside and check on the cows. As she was getting dressed I rolled out of bed ready to go outside. She asked me about clothes. Again, this is simply an impediment to getting back in bed quickly and its 0200!! She made some statement about us maybe needing to go down to her Mother’s house and she didn’t want to see me in my newborn glory. I capitulated and put on pants, slippers and grabbed my Walther P22. I headed for the front of the barn as I was pretty sure it was the pesky annoying bull hollering. Annmarie was on the back hillside flashing a light around looking for cows. I spotted the bull laying down and all four cows just chilling. Mission accomplished, time for bed. We met at the bridge so I could report off on my findings when she states maybe the other cows, all the way down by the schoolhouse, are causing the ruckus. Normally, this could be discounted as no normal human can hear this far, but Annmarie’s hearing is not normal. Not by a long shot, she can hear as well as most owls. I am truly amazed at times by what she can make out or hear, her students can attest to this also. We headed back out to the pickup when I was saved by the annoying bull, he hollered thereby convincing Annmarie that was what she had heard. Once at the bedside I was back in bed in under 15 seconds. She had to get up early but I decadently slept in till 0830! It was amazing.

This is the moon on the ill fated early wake up. I took this just before dark over the back hillside. Who knew I was documenting proof for the blog in advance?

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.

And it continues

It is amazing some of the things you learn when you work with old stuff. When we first moved to the farm one of the kids that was helping my father -in-law would collect old railroad tie date nails. I knew he had found a couple out on the farm but I never really paid any attention to it. As we build this Bull enclosure we are ripping down an old fence line and a few random railroad ties. About 50% of the ties are rotted off but the other ties are still good and are getting reused in the new fence. I have found two of the dated nails and managed to pull one out intact. The head popped off the other one. Annmarie looked it up for me when I came back inside. They were used to date the tie as there were several different methods to treat the posts and the railroad company wanted to track which ones worked the best. So this railroad tie is from 1929 and I put it back in the ground! I am hoping to get 100 years out of a railroad tie, truly amazing. A real testament to what living in a desert like climate can do for stuff. I guess that < 12 inches of annual rainfall is good for something.

I decided to do something about the front gate entrance. When you step in through the gate I always have to step to the side and onto some gravel I had piled up. Well that gravel is sliding down hill so I thought that creating a short wall would help the problem. I bought 25 blocks on Friday and got them installed two days ago. I am still not certain it is a good thing. It will keep the gravel from slipping as much but now I have to actually pick up my feet.

Bubba has been out for a few hours the last couple of days and has been filling the rock cribs. This is an essential task as I cannot move forward without them full. I was very clear that I wanted him to get them from the old rock wall to minimize driving on the hill. So yesterday when I was out working on the enclosure I had to finish topping off a couple of the cribs. I ended up crawling on top of the the cribs and moving rocks around by hand to get them to stack better. This made more space therefore requiring me to haul more rocks. I decided I would drive to the top of the hill and get some random rocks that were sticking out of the ground. I would eventually like to pick all of the huge rocks off of the hillside. As I drove past the old rock wall I marveled at how many rocks were still left. We had four rock cribs almost full and it looked barely touched.

Yet as the mistress took me up the hill i noticed what looked like a well beaten path going up to the top of the hillside. I knew i had only been up there a couple of times and could not have made that many tracks . I was right, Bubba decided that the extremely large pile of rocks on top were a lot less work. The rocks are all loose and you can just drive to one spot and load them up. Now this might upset the rock chucks that live in the pile but other than that no harm. If you look at the below picture the old rock fence is at the top of the shadow and the huge pile of rocks is at the skyline. Oh well, the grass truly is greener on the other side!

I went out and worked on the bull enclosure again until dark. This is cutting into my wife time. I need to just get it done so I can move on to the next thing, which is going to have to be the machine shop. All of my evening help was busy so I worked alone, I did three loads of rocks to top off cribs and then hung a gate over but the lamb shed. The gate only opens out toward the bull enclosure, it only went about 25% of the way in the opposite direction. I will need to remove some earth to make it open both ways.

I had to go get some woven wire but I my choices are severally limited as there are only three rolls left on my fencing pile. I managed to find two that will hopefully work. I will have to reuse the woven wire from the fence line I am tearing down to make the entire enclosure.

I managed to get the woven wire stretched over one section and will now just need to install the tamarack railing and it will be done!

Annmarie took these pictures out our kitchen window. We had some water issues and fertilizer issues this year with our boxes and had a hard time with some of our seeds growing. We have lots and lots of onions and potatoes. This is only our third year and we may have gotten it figured out. I still want to do the underground greenhouse next year. I think it would be amazing to grow fresh vegetables year round!

Supply time

Friday, I opted for a supply run to get the last of what I think I need for the bull enclosure. There is one item that I forgot, some Fastenal anchors I will need to put up all the enclosure railing. I will have to get those next week but I don’t need them yet. The store I was going to get the other supplies doesn’t carry them so its a second stop. This defeats the purpose of the quick trip if I keep stopping at various stores. I had the 16 foot trailer also and did not want to drag it around town, parallel parking it would be a special kind of torture. I ended up buying cow panels to cover the used feeder panels we picked up at auction. These will be wired directly over the panels. I may cut some of them in half lengthwise to make them stretch farther. But on the other hand, if I don’t cut them then at some future time I would be able to reuse them. I am still torn on which direction to go and have another week to ponder a choice. I am all about reusing stuff! I have saved a ton of money by reusing materials. It isn’t always the prettiest of things but it is always functional.

I also picked up a few blocks to put next to our gate. When we step in we step next to the concrete. I poured a bunch of gravel there to keep the mud away but over time the gravel is sloughing off down the hill. I need to put in a short wall to contain the gravel and allow us to have a clean stepping spot.

My other nephew, came out in the evening and we worked on setting more posts. I am paying him and offered to give him some cash but he wants to save it for college. I talked to him and we will fill an envelope with his wages and keep it at the house. This way when he gets ready for school he can just come pickup the envelope. We don’t care as we will just keep paying him about every ten hours. It just makes the math easier. Annmarie is going to help me with the water system for the bull. She thinks we have enough of a gradient that we can simply insert a hose upstream and run it to a trough. I can then put an overflow from the trough out onto the ground. This will keep the water clean and keep the bull out of the water. I am all for this and we will be testing the theory soon. We could pump it also with a solar pump, this will work as the bull will really only be spending three to four months here out of the year and only during the summer. The pump can be very low volume, as little as 5 gallons an hour. I can wire a float switch system to keep it from running all the time. The first option is far cheaper.

It tried to rain on us while we were fencing. It never really put down enough rain to stop us or to knock the wheat kernels out of the the drying heads. I don’t mind those kind of showers when it is hot outside. I have been drinking more water but I need to increase my intake. I have noticed the last couple of years that I cannot go outside and work in 100+ degree heat all day any more. I get too tired and usually get sick. Ten years ago I did it all summer long, it is not happening any more. I do wear a long sleeve shirt when out in the sun and that helps considerably. All the teenagers think I am a freak when they see me dressed for work. They think shorts, tennis shoes and T-shirt are the go to garb when working in the summertime. I make them wear boots, jeans and gloves while they are working. I even supply the gloves if they don’t bring any. They learn over the course of a summer why we do things a little different on a farm.

Bully for us

This week I have been trying to work on the bull enclosure. The best part of this is after last weekend I went and got a load of hay and had Mr Consumer unload it while I was at work! This is the absolute best way to move hay, by not moving it at all and letting someone else do it.

I decided to change my name for Mr Consumer. Its a big deal for me as I don’t usually do this but I just cannot pass up the opportunity to use a better one. His mother calls him Bubba! I cannot make this up and it is way cooler than my name! So I am switching forever and ever, this one time.

My nephew has been coming out to the house in the late evenings to help me out. We are focusing on the bull enclosure. Its slow going but we have been able to sink 6-8 posts every night. We are setting each post with gravel instead of putting the dirt back. This means we are staying out till 2130on the nights we can work. This means I just come home, eat dinner and then head out to the barn lot to work. This only works 2-3 evenings a week but it is a little more done every day and ultimately it will be done if I just keep at it.

The only lousy part is we are having to manually dig the holes the rest of the way. My tractor just won’t do it. A 16 pound breaker bar will move a lot of rocks a little way then we manually dig them out of the holes. Most of the time you have to dig them out by hand as the post hole digger doesn’t grab the rocks. It is amazing how you can literally break a rock in half with a steel bar and enough effort. I can tell we have been at this for over three weeks, my T-shirts are starting to not be as loose on me from the upper body muscles compensating for the hard work. Now if only this would contribute to a six pack ab set without having to work at it!

We are reusing some old cedar posts in an effort to keep costs down. I am hoping they will hold but the only real way to test this theory out is to build it, put the bull in there and see how it works. So we are going to do a trial by fire after completion.

If only it were easy

I really want to get the bull enclosure finished but it is turning out to not be an easy project. My choice of locations is making it difficult. There is a hidden solid rock bluff just under the dirt on this hillside. This is good as the soil never really grows anything but bad when you talk about actually trying to drill a hole in the ground. Sarah came out to help me and she proved valuable. Its funny, I am not sure if I will ever outgrow riding my child verbally to work faster and hit harder even though she is an adult. I did the same thing when she was a child. It went well and she kept calling dibs on moving the tractor so I was hoofing it around the barn lot. I am trying to reuse some of the old cedar posts that have been on the farm 50+ years. I don’t want to put a railroad tie into every hole as there are over 50 holes and a railroad tie is $20/each nowadays. We are not certain the bull wont push over the posts so it is a guessing game. I am going to create solid corners and then anchor the two posts next to the corner on either side together with an overhead wooden support. This should keep the bull from tearing up the corners. I have put in one rock crib on every stretch and may have to put in two to keep him from pushing the fence outwards. We will see how it goes as we actually start building the fence. We are still just drilling holes and have managed to get 9 posts set in gravel and 6 more dropped in holes. I set all my wooden posts in gravel now. They stiffen up much nicer and I am hoping that they last longer, time will tell.

This corner arrangement will have a triangle shaped rock crib between these posts. The posts are 8 feet apart and my lovely wife tells me that is 32 Sqft. It will be four feet high so I am betting it will take about four hours just to fill this single corner up with rocks. I have five cribs so far that will take at least 16 hours just to collect rocks off the hillside and fill them up. On the plus side it does help cut down on the rocks on the hillside but since we are pretty sure rocks grow there it is an ongoing battle.

I had better luck digging some of the holes by hand. I could manipulate the smaller hand tool to get through the clay faster. I may even need to take a metal file to the teeth of the auger on my tractor. I can knock off the burrs and sharpen the auger teeth, the problem is if I do this it will dig faster but every time I hit a rock I will cringe even more than I do now and I hit a lot of rocks when digging holes!

This week I was looking out the kitchen window and realized that it just looked weird. The light was very dull and the ground was a very unnatural color. I ran out the front door with my cell phone and took the above purple blue tinged picture from the front porch. I wanted one without the power lines so I walked across the bridge and stood on my trailer. This took maybe a minute, what a difference that minute made in the view. Five minutes later this was all gone. It was an amazingly beautiful sight and one of my favorite pictures from the farm.