Predator wars on again

Yesterday I got a late start and started mowing the fields at 0630.  I had plans to get out of bed at 0500 but that just did not happen.  I needed to mow the bottom four fields as they were getting covered in cheat grass and weeds.  The fields do better with a mow job.  I will spray them in a week or two.  I have a new seat for the tractor but I keep losing the bolts out of it.  I have lost two already.  I need some lock tight to go on the threads.  

The cows were hanging out by the school house and since I was on the tractor they just ignored me.  This allowed me to get a good picture and discover that Annmarie was right we do have new calves!  I found a second brand new calf.  So fairly soon we will need to run the cows back into the barn lot and tag and band.  I did not check to see whether they were a boy or girl.  I stopped around 1000 to load up 2.5 yards of prime sheep poop compost for a friend.  They left some fresh blueberries and an amazing sour raspberry jam.  The jam is so good I will need to get the recipe.  I managed to go all day until 1600 mowing without overheating the tractor!

I attribute this to two things, first thing was I blew all of the dust out of the radiator, inside engine compartment and even opened up the dust filter and cleaned off both filters.  The second thing was I figured out how to get the mower to ride parallel to the ground by lowering the back wheel allowing the cut grass to get out of the mower blades and not bogging the tractor down. This allowed me to go all day without killing the tractor once.  

I finished mowing around the machine shed today and then spent 45 minutes cleaning off the dust and weeds from the tractor and mower with water.  I want to finish pulling out the old flooded fence in the barn lot tomorrow.  I will need the box blade put on so it adds weight to the back of the tractor giving me the necessary traction.  

I also spent another 45 minutes cleaning out the back of the pickup with water so it is neat.  Annmarie wants me to pick up the antique rocker we purchased a couple of months ago and I need a clean bed for that to happen.  The real challenge will be keeping the pickup clean until then.  

The manure trade involved a young 3 month old rooster residing at our place.  He was running around with the hens yesterday.  I have not seen him at all today.  I am not sure he survived the night.  He probably did not go into the coop last night and is raccoon food.  I have another coworker who is looking to get rid of a couple of roosters, it may be time to give her a call.  The predator wars are definitely back on!

I have started clearing the lavender area again with a shovel.  It takes longer than I realize every time.  I spent three hours on it today and it needs another three hours.  Unfortunately, I did not water all the little plants consistently and there is some significant lavender die off.  I am back to watering every other day and we should know in a week how many actually survived.  This is totally my fault for not watering them more frequently.  

 

Auction score

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So frustrating, my blog company is trying to get me into the 20th century and now wants to upgrade my editor abilities to include “blocks”, which as far as I can tell are snippets of information that are standalone and are inserted into your blog.  It looks cool, but it means everything is independent and instead of 3 choices I now have 30 and they can all be independently modified.  I tried it this morning and just got frustrated, it is looking like my blog time will triple and honestly I don’t have time for that, so I am back to the old archaic version until they force me to use the new, which I am sure they will eventually.  I had a cap on the pictures I could insert this morning so I will be attempting to do the blog more often as there appears to be a cap on how many pictures I can upload. Even with all of this and the changes I have still managed to keep this thing going for over 10 years now, which surprises even me!

On Sunday, we decided to forgo sleep and working on the farm and went to an estate auction.  The weather was cold, windy and very rainy at times.  Despite all of this we managed to buy some new living room furniture for $200 and a jewelry box for Annmarie that almost paid for itself when we took out the liner to oil all of the wood and discovered a little money hidden inside.  I found one of my favorite of all times auction finds an antique clothes drying rack.  These are far and few between and this one is in great shape.  I will get it all cleaned up with some soapy water and that is it as I don’t want oil to get on our clothes.  This thing is great!  I am going to mount it on the wall in the laundry room.  I was told by the lady who sells reproductions, for $40, that I must of really wanted it as she kept trying to outbid me for it but I really did want it.  After we got the furniture unloaded into the house we took a long nap as I had worked part of the previous night.  I was very tired after all of that and carrying the furniture inside and did not want to take the old furniture out as we had no place for it yet.  Now we still have two sets of living room furniture in our living room and dining room and I am on 14 day home/work quarantine, even Roomba can hardly get around.

When I got home on Monday the dogs were throwing a fit by the back corner of the front yard.  I went over to investigate and noticed that they were staring up into the tree, it was a squirrel!  Hopefully it was “the squirrel” that has been down at mother-in-law’s house.  I went inside, grabbed the 22 and dispatched said squirrel.  We cannot let them get established as they are incredibly hard on the power lines and transformers.  They are the number one reason for power outages in cities per the power line worker who I talked to when we lived in a city and lost power due to a squirrel.

On Tuesday we had more rain and Annmarie reiterated the “no carcass, no count” rule in our bid to eradicate the rockchucks.  It is a fair rule but it does make it a lot more challenging.  It does make it very clear cut, no subjective “I got it” interpretations are allowed.  I had held off on cutting hay on Saturday and now that it has rained twice I am glad I did.

On Wednesday, Annmarie called the shipping company to ask about our tire bark.  They have failed to deliver it twice already and have had it for two weeks.  I did feel a little sorry for the person on the other end of the line, but we did get our ground cover!  Five pallets, 5 ton should be enough to get all of the ground cloth covered up and secured in place.  Now we just have to install it all.  I spent part of the day trying to mow the weeds and grass around the place, I ended up overheating the tractor attempting to mow a thistle patch.  I will try it again early in the morning, not at high noon when its the hottest time.

On Thursday I was headed out of the house by 0445 to go to work and Gizmo was just ranting and barking at the front fence.  He would not come back in the house meanwhile the border collies were just running around the yard.  I got him to move a couple of feet and there were raccoons on the other side of the fence!  I ran back into the house and grabbed the 22 rifle.  I considered shooting from the porch but there is the fence, the cars the corral all in the way plus Gizmo is out there terrorizing them so they don’t come in his yard.  So as I ran up the pathway to get to the cars and the raccoons started running for the barn.  I only got two shots off just as they darted across the 16 foot gate opening at the end of the corral.  I missed, we didn’t even need to enact the no carcass, no count rule.  There were five of them!!  My chickens are not going to survive five raccoons.  So war is officially on again!  But the real question is do I get to start counting all the rodents we kill in on the predator kill count?  Is that cheating to just inflate the numbers?  I think it is so I will continue to only count animals that kill my chickens as this was the original definition of a predator.    When I got home Annmarie had me grab the binoculars and we drove up the driveway to look for a new baby calf she had spotted the day before.  Again,  we had given up on the last two cows having calves as it was just not happening so we had turned the bull loose a couple of weeks ago.  Sure enough there was a new baby calf out in the field.

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Machine shed joy

Yesterday was very productive, having Tex come out and help has really allowed us to take on some projects that had just been getting pushed to the side. We started the day by tagging and banding cows. Now mind you we knew there were three babies that needed to be tagged but until we catch them we don’t know their gender. Last time Annmarie did the tractor trick and they came out of the lower pasture to follow the tractor. This time she and Tex went outside and then I did the dishes. I saw the cows up on the back hillside so I ambled on out to the tractor with my coffee in hand and proceeded to drive up the back hillside. I figured the cows would follow the tractor. I proceeded to drink a lot of coffee on my way up the hillside. Well as soon as I got on top of the hill the cows started running in the opposite direction away from the tractor. Cell phones might sound like a great communication device but after the third time your wife calls you when you are supposed to be helping move cattle its time to ignore the phone. As soon as the cows heard the tractor they ran back down to the gate I always bring food in through!! Who is stupid now? By the time I got down off the hill I had just enough time to open the barn lot gate and they pushed the cows inside. We had them sorted in under 10 minutes. It took me about five minutes to get both testicles on the larger calf into the rubber band device. The calf kept peeing on me. I persevered but after 220 lambs I am a lot better at them. I have only done 18 steers and I messed up the first three.

We sorted off the cows to sell this fall. There was supposed to be two, there were three. So now I have to sell one more cow and Annmarie has convinced me we need to use her shared spreadsheet app she made in Airtable. We need to be able to keep track of days born and how many we have on hand. She inputted all three new calves into the system. We have sorted them off and they are now in the upper prime field. It has lots of green grass and running water. They are not happy about being sorted off of their mothers. We will have 7 cows for sale next year. We will finally have our numbers up.

I had to go to town and pickup gates for the front of the machine shop. I had to buy multiple sizes to get them to fit right as I cannot adjust the opening of the shop. I had to buy 10 gates for around $800. The 50 yards of gravel cost around $900, four days of labor cost around $600. Not to shabby for an incredibly useful space and a lot of it!!

We had to alternate attaching gates inside the opening or outside depending on whether we needed to fill in space or use less. We even managed to get most of them to match. Its hard to believe that they are on a slant from the left side to the right. I spent some time and spread out the rest of the gravel. While I did that Tex mounted 6 sheets of plywood into the hay area. We don’t want the hay scraps to fall back into the cleaned out area. He go six sheets up and I need to go buy six more to finish the wall separating the hay area and the rest of the shop.

While we were hanging gates Annmarie was taking a nap! I spotted the evidence that evening when I came inside. I was incredibly jealous. Tex also cleaned up all the junk behind the machine shed and dug out a drainage ditch. We will get it filled with gravel in the next week or so. This should help the moisture inside the shop also.

Is it really winter?

It is turning out to be a very weird winter. It was in the mid 40’s yesterday and it is the middle of January. We have only had snow on the ground once all winter. Our new weather station says we are getting lots of rain. We are pretty sure something is wrong with the rain gauge as it says we have gotten 4 inches of rain since we installed it. I tried to find an official source of rain on the internet and I found a lot of weather history but could not find anything current. Internet search engines are not always my friends. It is so warm I am secretly plotting my spring projects already. Annmarie is not so secretly planning my spring projects also. We had a conversation this morning where she lined out my summer projects:

1. Plant front hillside

2. Install above ground sprinkler system on front hillside

3. Install above ground sprinkler system in orchard using 3-300 foot long 1″ poly pipe sections with valves, moving small water pump to ditch and figuring out how to wire in a 110 plug and switch into the main irrigation control panel. Without electrocuting myself in the process hopefully.

4. This will also require me to pour some concrete to reinforce the bank and stop the leak currently running through the center of the retaining wall.

5. Redo the last section of yard fence. This should prevent Gizmo from sneaking out of the yard.

6. OHH and finish assembling the back porch wooden furniture and stain it or option 2 was to “burn it” as this will be the third year its been on my list. I should make this #1 but the other stuff can be done in marginal weather and this needs to be perfect.

Plus I need to plant 7 acres of Alfalfa, find or purchase a small seeder, hay 20 acres and fix barns so they will take the round bales without pushing the siding off the outside walls. Create a system of 4 foot racks on each end of my flatbed trailer that will stop the bales from rolling off. I need to weld a few hooks on my trailer for that to work. Which means I need a welder. I still need to purchase the hay equipment and get the financing worked out. I want to fix some fence and spend one week doing fencing on the bottom. It’s going to be a busy spring and summer. Yesterday I went out to the barn and played catch up again. I try to hit it hard on my first day off so I can plan out the next two days. I went out and fed the sheep, cleaned out the feeders. They are full of dirt that was in the hay and had to be dumped out. I threw down a bale of straw as the chute was very messy. It has been very wet so the sheep are making a mess. The straw helps create a clean layer and compacts down so it is not so muddy. We had twins born on Thursday and there was another set when I went out Friday morning. Both times the babies had just been born so we lock them up with momma and then give them selenium paste and move them into the main herd in the evening. This leaves eight ewes left to give birth. At this rate we are hoping to be done by the end of January, which would make our lambing season 38 days, or two estrus cycles for the ewes. We could get a second ram and maybe shorten it to 24 days but then we have to feed two freeloaders instead of one and its harder to control the genetics. So we are going to just stay under 50 ewes and keep one ram. I had to feed the cows also, and I finally spotted the second calf. We now have two calves to tag and band but one is pretty big. This is going to be a problem. I already have to have a nephew help as even the little ones at a month are more than I can hold down and work on alone. We have been talking about a calf tipping table but new they are $1300-1500. Nothing related to livestock is cheap. So I have been putting it off as the hay equipment takes priority. I used the last of the large hay bales and will now need to break out the trailer and attach it to the tractor. I will have to load the 100# bales of alfalfa into the trailer, drive down and break them open into the feeders for the cows at least twice a week. I only had to feed once a week with the large bales. I will only have small bales when we do our own hay.

Our ram is off in the bull/ram corral and we discovered that the horse trough is too high for the sheep. We have just been scooping out a bucket or two and breaking the ice when needed. It was so warm I managed to turn on the hose and fill the entire trough. This will be enough water for the rest of winter for the four sheep that are in this enclosure. So nice not to have to bucket it from the creek. I may need to install a gate down near the creek so we can have easy access. Now you have to go all the way around to get to the creek to bucket out water.

Since I used the last of the large hay bales I was able to take the last two panels of the horse round pen and install them into the round enclosure in the barn lot. I just need to get a premade corral gate and Annmarie will finally have a dedicated circle pen for the horses after many years.

I also spread out one of the compost piles from the barn. It was nice and rounded and tall. Moisture is only getting into the top six inches. I moved all the dirt to the right side and knocked the whole pile down to 3 feet tall and very rough on top so the maximum amount of water gets absorbed and none runs off the top of the pile. I want it to turn into dirt.

After the morning chores I went inside and groomed Gizmo. He does not appreciate being plucked. I was able to get the Mohawk hair do back to its dazzling do. He no longer smells like mud and sheep.

I went to the local custom wood cutter to pick up my lumber I had picked up at auction this fall for the boosters club. While I was there it dawned on me I had not been to the metal scrap yard across the street in quite a while. I used to go every few months. So i pulled in and spent 30 minutes wandering all over the place. They have a bunch of galvanized culvert (I don’t currently need but may in the future), I found some small cable I can use, they have some T posts, a single roll of woven wire and a calf table! The table is exactly what we have been looking for and it was right there! I went in and negotiated an amazing price and arranged to pick it up next week and left. Three hours later I came back for the table. You just never know if it will still be there next week and I could not pass it up. It needs some wire brush and paint but other than that I think it is good to go! All in all it was a very productive day. Today it is already raining and miserable outside. Annmarie did morning chores and there are no new babies. So I am doing my laundry (no under wear left). I had this discussion with Annmarie this morning there are only four reasons to do laundry

1. No clean socks.

2. No clean underwear.

3. No clean work uniforms.

4. No clean dress clothes.

She knows that running out of laundry hamper space is no deterrent due to my mad stacking/piling skills and strategic leaning techniques.