It is very hard to believe that this is the end of January. The weather has been incredibly mild. In the last 28 days we have gotten just over 4” of rain. We usually get 12” annually. The ground is so saturated that if you look out in this field, all the little brown spots are worm mounds from them surfacing to avoid drowning, that is a lot of worms! This is prime fencing weather but since I am supposed to be inside the house doing home improvement projects I don’t get to go outside and fence all winter long. Being able to fence all winter long is not a problem that normally occurs.
I have been working on the upstairs bathroom. I have the closet almost roughed in and finish wood on the walls. I still need to build one stem wall and a frame for the closet door. I am going to hold off on the rest of the closet build until I get the floor tile installed. I can do that while we are waiting on the plumber to come in and install the sink and toilet.
I was super stoked that I managed to get the closet floor cut and installed on the first try only using a tape measure and square to draw out the pattern on plywood. It just needed some judicious use of nylon hammer to get it into place. I am all ready to start installing the Hardiboard on the floor. Once that is in I can start painting the Red Guard on to create a waterproof barrier to set the tile on top of preventing any toilet water from ending up in the downstairs ceiling. Barring no complications I should have the Hardiboard down and the Red Guard done over the weekend and will be able to start laying tile next weekend. I am hoping to lay all of the floor tile in one setting. Once it has cured for 24 hours I will come back and put the floor trim tile up on the wall. I am not going to use pool tile grout this time. I am using an epoxy base but it’s not quite as sticky as the stuff I used last year. When I was talking to the tile shop I was told I should only have done about three square feet of grout at a time so I could clean it all up quickly. I am pretty sure we did about six square feet of grout at a time and it was painful. I am still cleaning up grout in some low traffic areas a year later.
Zeke is figuring out how to get out of the front yard again. He was jumping at the lower wire strand to make it loose so he could crawl under it but he has figured out how to get out without doing that now. I am going to drill through the 4×4 posts and string another wire through the posts and see if that keeps him in. It is crazy how hard it is to keep him in the yard. Mouse hardly leaves even if he front gate is left open!
My baby pullets just started to lay this week! Instead of getting three eggs a week we have gotten two dozen in the last four days. Our egg customers will be happy to get eggs as we were not selling any.
We did have another single lamb born this morning. Annmarie and I think the ram got tired when he was doing his job this summer. It’s like he had to save up energy before he could rush in for a few days then take a break to build up more energy, he is no Energize bunny. We are seriously considering a second ram to cause some competition between the two rams.
- Total lambs born (dead or alive): 28
- # of singles: 5
- # of twins: 7
- # of triplets: 3
- Stillborn lambs: 1
- # died without a tag: 4
- # bummered: 3
- # ewes delivered: 15
- # lambs alive on property: 20
- Birth rate (alive & dead included): 187% (goal>150%)
- Ewe productivity after 1 week (live lambs on farm): 140% (goal >125%)
- Lamb success (live lambs on farm after 1 week): 71% (max 100%)
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.