Whose the boss?

Well it’s a New Year!  One of the things I have noticed the most about doing the blog is I seem to repeat myself.  There is always a variety but we are a farm and do have the same type of animals and jobs that need to be done.  I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.  There is always a daily variety, the weather, the moon cycle, the sound of the birds or running creek, the leaves on the trees, something new every day to make it different.  I write this blog for me, consider it my therapy.  As I am out working on something I always wonder if it has been done before and what were the previous generations thinking?  We don’t have that so I wanted to create a record of what it is like to actually run a small farm and what it takes to keep it up and the problems that come up.  I have done the blog since March 2010.  I wish now that I had started three years earlier but I did not and at that time it was not as easy to create and run a blog.  I am not the most computer literate individual as my wife and daughter will attest.  Ten years is a long time to stick with this and I plan on doing it until I cannot.  I want to be able to pass on that day to day thought process and the highs and lows associated with farm life.  I truly do enjoy all the hard work, time and effort that goes into creating and maintaining a farm.  As I get older, I will need to learn how to work smarter, not harder and I hope someone can learn those lessons earlier than I did.  This has been my New Years revelation for 2020.  I hope the reader, you, can enjoy the small moments and laugh at the absurdity along with me.

I want out and took a picture of my new flood lights on the tractor after it was full dark.  Realize that I took these pictures with my IPhone that hates low light and I did it with no flash.  It was amazingly bright!  I have a front and rear view.  I will have no trouble working in the dark now.  I just need the weather to warm up and I will be ready to go!

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On January 1, 2020 I made the perfect breakfast.  I made fried ham and potatoes with onions and garlic with a perfect eggs over easy.  The yolks did not get broke in the flip and they were from our chickens.  The ham was from a trade of lambs for a pig this year and the potato was a baked leftover one from dinner a few nights before.  I have learned to drop the chopped garlic in for the last couple of minutes of cooking to get its full aroma and flavor.  I used to toss it in early and burn it and to top it all off I use “Slap Ya Mama” Cajun seasoning as my only spice.  Perfection.

 

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We have one ewe that has finally figured out the game. She just hangs out alongside the wall when we come in and feed and work in the barn.  She just stays sitting and we leave her alone.  She doesn’t bum rush the new hay when we put it out and when everyone else comes back in she gets up and joins the herd.  She is one of our original Baker Girls so she was in our second batch of sheep we ever bought.  So we have had for almost a decade.  As you look at our herd you can tell who the old original ewes are, they just look tired.  We have opted to allow them to just keep on keeping on.  They are now getting some supplemental food away from the main herd.  This has been helping them gain some weight and not constantly lose.  We may end up having to confine them in the orchard during the summer to limit their roaming.  As long as they can keep up with the herd we will let them.

My baby chickens still want to be stupid and not go in at night.  Unfortunately, they are not consistent.  Most nights they are all in the coop, one night I had seven chickens sitting outside the door.  On the first night of the year I had to go and put a black chick into the coop, I believe she is copper maran.  It is hard to catch a black chicken in the dark and when I scooped her up she smacked me in the face with her wing and caterwauled about being handled.  You would have thought she was going in the stew pot any second with the raucous she was creating.

 

 

Lamb in hand

We have had the ram isolated and in with the steers for the last two weeks since we had a lamb born on the 9th. We figured it was the tip of the iceburg and the babies would start popping out everywhere. It has been two weeks and no more babies. The sheep come into estrus every 3 weeks so she must have been the only one in heat. So babies should start up in 1-2 weeks.

I had to kick the baby chickens out of the coop today. I just went out there and chased or threw them out one at a time. Only about 10 managed to get out on their own. I went out just before dark and after the automatic chicken door had closed and had to chase 24 back into the coop. Only six had made it inside before the auto door closed.

Annmarie and I had a discussion about what to call the side by side UTV. She did not like the name “side by side”. She did not really care for UTV either. So she opted for “buggy”. I tried to explain that a buggy in recreational vehicle terminology is something you use on the sand. We are calling the side by side a “buggy”.

I did go down and feed the cows another bale of hay and spotted a new calf! It looks good. How can it come out ready for winter?

I have started to wire the machine shed. It is going to be a slow process but hoping to have it down before the new year.

We killed two lambs today, it was our part of the trade two sheep for a pig deal we have been doing the last couple of years. It seems to be working out for both of us. Again we were able to salvage an amazing amount of items courtesy of an Indian friend. He took both heads, all 8 forelegs, lungs, kidneys, hearts, livers and some diaphragm meat and some scraps from the hide. I started a fire in the fire pit and burned off the hair for him. But I am not taking the blame if I overdid it. He said last year when I started the bonfire it was so hot he ended up over cooking the heads and legs. He blamed it on the heat, and his wife blamed him! So I did it at a lower heat and smaller fire. Hopefully, it will meet wife approval standards.

Annmarie is violating the Christmas rule by hanging out a Christmas decoration before Thanksgiving! I went out to let the dogs back in a mere few hours and discovered that the Christmas decoration had fallen apart. It would appear that the powers that be also agree with me on the Christmas rule.

Annmarie used the upstairs bathroom to stain some wood for the laser cutter. Its a great space as we can shut the door and turn on the ventilation fan. It may become a permanent craft location for this reason.

Lambies!

On Monday while Rain Man and I were out cutting wire away from some old cow panels to reuse them down by the school house we were talking about the sheep. All the sheep were in one corner of the ram pasture and I asked him to guess how many sheep there were. He guessed around 30, in reality there are almost 80 sheep in the picture. Most people underestimate how many sheep there really are when they see them all bunched up. I was explaining that we were expecting babies in December when he said “isn’t that a baby” and pointed to the left side of the herd. Yep, there was a single newborn lamb probably only 24 hours old but definitely not brand new. When all the sheep ran out of the pasture this lamb got stuck on one side of the fence while momma was on the other. I ended up catching it so it could be reunited with its mother. Rain Man got to cuddle the lambie and then set it out so it could find momma. He got called away right after that to go to work.

I hung the gates and put the panels up. I still need 16 4″ anchor bolts to finish my braces but I only have 6″ and 3.5″. The 3.5″ are about 1/4″ too short! I will have to get these in town later in the week.

I came in just at dark and Annmarie and I sorted off the ram and five whethers to go with him over into Alcatraz with the steers. Our ram is almost as wide as he is long! He is so fat. We will be killing whethers soon, maybe this upcoming weekend. We want to pull the ram off so we can keep all the ewes having babies as close together as possible.

Today I decided to integrate my baby chicks with the adult hens. I have 23 chicks that are over 3 months old. I opened the gate to their area and then filled their water and food so they can hang out for another 3-5 days without needing to leave. This lets them think about jumping into the door and making their way out into the real world. The only real problem with this is I have to start watching them to make sure they are getting back inside the coop at night or they will become raccoon food. Come spring time we should have lots of eggs!

Lone Fencer

I have spent the last two days fencing by myself. My helper, Tex, has been a no show. This has caused me to have to adjust my timeline. Together we can do as much work as I can do in about 2.5=3 days. Alone, I am a lot slower, so I have started concentrating on the things that matter. Getting the posts in the ground before it freezes matters. So yesterday I staged all the supplies we had in the back of the pickup and started to clean out post holes by hand. The tractor auger can dig them but they still need to be finished off by hand. I needed the pickup empty so I could bring the railroad ties then a load of gravel into the lower field. The trailer will not go up the hill. I figured out how to load the railroad ties with the tractor today. I was just going to dump them over the side but if I slid the tie down I was able to catch the end of the tie under the top edge of the bucket and just lift it up longwise. This let me just slide it in the end of the pickup! It worked great and meant I only had to slide the tie by hand about three feet. Unfortunately, I had to unload the ties by hand on the other end but only having to lift it once instead of twice was an improvement. I put ties in all the corners and filled the first stretch of fencing. I want to get a section done then move onto the next section. I will leave the wire install as the second to last step, installing the gates is the last step. Wire can be installed when the ground is frozen, posts cannot be pounded into the ground by hand when the ground is frozen. I am learning to prioritize.

I set all the wooden posts in gravel. It just makes things easier and the posts stay tight. I put seven tractor bucket scoops in the back of the pickup. I only needed about 5.5 to set all the wooden posts but the leftovers went over the newly installed culvert. It is still a mud pit as it keeps raining every day. I am hoping the gravel mixing into the mud will make a nice hard surface eventually.

I got the first section all ready, T-posts are installed and this time I even managed to keep them in a straight line. This section goes to a six foot gate, I of course purchased a eight foot gate. Luckily, I have an extra six foot gate on the place already and will use the eight foot gate somewhere else in the future.

This picture below shows the first section of fence I am installing, it goes from one end of the picture to the other. Directly in the middle of the picture is a lone bush along the creek, that is where I am at with T-posts. So I am about half way on them, but tonight after finishing setting the wooden posts I started to pound in T-posts again but I just ran out of oomph! I hit that last T-post about 25 times and knew I was done for the day.

The baby chickens are growing! I had to raise the self waterer another 1/2 inch. They have to be able to reach up to peck at the nipples or it doesn’t work right. This week they are going to finish off the first 50# bag of crumble food. I will need to buy another 50# and then hopefully after that is out I can go to pellets. We are getting 3 eggs a day from 8 chickens now. The 23 chicks won’t start laying until spring but then we will have 30 laying hens! We are only selling about 3-4 dozen a month now.

We ordered the trickle charger for the side by side. The battery is dead and I cannot start it. I am told that this is a common problem for UTV. The trickle charger will stop it. This means I need to wire in a 110v outlet near the side by side parking spot, so I brought all the stuff to wire in lights and switches and once the fence is installed I will be wiring lights on the tractor and lights in the machine shop.

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.

It was bound to happen sooner or later

It was merely a matter of time before the Mistress and I had a little spat. I had a little more time off and decided that I needed to get our upper fields disced up and weed free. I hooked the disc set up directly onto the 2.5 inch ball setup on the back of the mistress. I had been going around in circles for about an hour, when I decided I needed to get the ditch area. The right side of the ditch is elevated and I had the tractor bucket way up in the air with 300# of tractor weights in it. I started up the ditch then felt the tractor tipping to the left side. I knew it was going to go over onto its side and there was nothing I could do. I had enough time to consider bailing off of it but I had the seatbelt on and cinched down. I could have released it and attempted a dismount. I decided against it then started reaching for the dirt as it approached before realizing that I just needed to ride it out. I pulled my hands up and just held onto the steering wheel until the roll bar smacked into the ground. I was not hurt and now had to figure out how to get the tractor upright.

I hoofed it down to the house and grabbed the pickup. I had two chains with the Mistress and I was hoping the pickup could pull the tractor upright. I hooked onto a bar by the front tire and onto the roll bar with separate chains and then pulled them tight and hooked them to the stinger on the pickup. The pickup had no trouble uprighting the Mistress. I kept the tractor chained to the pickup and jockeyed the tractor back and forth using the chains to move forward in an arc and not tip back over until I got out of the ditch. I then spent another six hours knocking down weeds. The mistress and I no worse for the wear.

The baby chickens are going to lay green eggs, we had ten in the coop over the last four days. I need to get about 8 green ones a day to truly justify their expense. Let’s hope it actually happens.

Raccoonageddon

We had a plan last night for predator control and we stuck with it. Around 2130 Annmarie heard raccoons chittering on the back porch. We started breaking out the weapons and the Border Collies started looking for places to hide. They are not real big on loud noises. Our ankle biter Brussels Griffin was all excited and wanted to go outside with us and chase stuff. We had to be careful when we let Annmarie out the front door that he didn’t slip past her. He is pretty sneaky. I gave her time to get to the other side of the old house and then I flipped the outside light on, popped the back door open and started blazing away with my Walther P22 pistol. The laser sight makes shooting in low light situations amazingly easy. I had to spread the wealth though as it was a target rich environment. There were four raccoons and I only had 11 shots when I started. So after two rounds in an animal I switched to another. Two 22 rounds typically does not kill a raccoon immediately unless you are head shooting them. I am not a bad shot but I am not head shot on four moving targets going all directions at once good. I had managed to hit three and was trying for a fourth when Annmarie started blazing away. I never did see what animal she was shooting at so I am afraid there may be five raccoons not four. I had time to slam another clip in and run to the fence to look over for more raccoons after Annmarie hollered it was clear. We looked in the trees and did not find anything. I came back, finished off one and we ended up with three dead raccoons. I usually deal with bodies in the morning as I was going to have to wash off blood from the sidewalk. So we went to bed and in the morning I went out to move the carcasses before going to work. There was only one carcass! The other two were gone. Now before I have any doubters they were all dead. As in finish them off dead before we left the porch. I have made that mistake in the past and don’t do it any more. We are unclear how two of the carcasses vanished. All the cat food was gone also. We will leave out cat food again tonight but I would be surprised if they came back again anytime soon.

The club wheat is ready to harvest and should be cut next week. It is probably the best crop we have had in years. It seems to get better every year.

As I was stepping out of the pickup to take pictures of the wheat two little deer fawn twins jumped out from under a rose bush and ran out into the wheat. If you look at the picture below closely you can see one ear. Both fawns were right there in the wheat field. They are little and still spotted, momma leaves them all over the farm. I have spotted them at both ends of the place. We also have a few bucks coming in at night and early morning. This is good as my nephew and I both have buck tags this year.

I picked up a 260 gallon water trough for the bull area today and 500# of wood pellets for the chicken coop. Bubba just about has the coop done and the pellets will be needed. He shoveled out the old sawdust and bleached the walls today. He just needs to lay down some new pellets after moving old ones. The nest boxes need to be cleaned out and the back room needs to be vacuumed up. He got the milking area of the barn cleaned out today also and under the stairs. Just the momma area, the feeders and the sorting chute need to be completed.

I looked at a set of discs today. It will cost $1000. I am going to have to break down and get them next week so we can finish prepping the fields for alfalfa.

We also got a quote for two miles of fiber optic cable to be strung out to the house. It’s not cheap but it is doable. We would rather have high speed internet than a boat, RV, four wheeler, new vehicle, motorcycle or snowmobile. So we should know by next week hopefully if it is possible and when it can be done.