This is winter

Hard to believe that the back runoff creek is already running! It is only January and it is full of water and moving toward the ocean. The creek is so much wider after the torrent we had last year so I am hopeful it won’t get out of control this spring.

The damn tractor broke again! The worst part is the hydraulic steering cylinder that broke this summer just broke again! I just don’t understand why this is happening. It’s the bolt in the hydraulic cylinder that is shearing. So I will order another one and we can get it installed. Mr Professional managed to use enough bailing twine to get it to hold in place long enough to drive it back to the machine shed.

The winter weather has brought some amazing color changes to the skyline. I have been trying to get pictures whenever the light has been unique. I do love the changes.

I managed to miss one of the extra roosters. I have two now and need to thin the the second one. He is not very good at crowing, he sits on the top of the coop ramp entrance and blocks the hens from going in when it is getting dark. We have had to round up the hens every night and push them into the chicken coop. He is making me crazy. I keep hoping that one of the raccoons will actually eat the spare rooster. It has gotten so bad we are now using the Border Collie, Mouse to herd the chickens back into the coop at night!

We did tag and band the lambs on Saturday and sorted off the seven ewes that we think are pregnant and have isolated them to the momma baby area. Everyone else is now in with the main herd and the entire barn is opened up to them. I will update the lamb statistics next week.

Wife is a savior

Annmarie has been picking up all the slack around the farm as I have been fairly worthless since catching covid. She has been feeding and sorting and checking on lambs, feeding chickens and collecting eggs. She has been amazing during this time. She made me promise to not overwork myself when I went back to work. I took a few more days off for a total of 14 then went back to work on Monday. I stayed in my office mostly with only 1-2 trips out of my office. Unfortunately, by Wednesday I was unable to do evening chores at home due to shortness of breath and fatigue. By Thursday I started to get chest pain that continued to get worse, I ended up in the ER that night to make sure I did not have a blood clot in my lungs. No blood clots, just post covid syndrome. So I am back to sitting around again most of the day, resting. I hate resting. I have had to reiterate the not working so hard promise.

We have had the usual drama on the farm. The chickens have decided that they don’t want to go into the coop at night. Anywhere from 3-7 chickens dawdle and end up outside the automatic door. This is not healthy for the chickens as we know there is most likely one raccoon living in the barn or around the barn. Annmarie saw fresh tracks in the snow recently. So we have been kicking them back into the barn when we get eggs. Unfortunately, we only let the ones sitting right outside the gate into the coop, we do not hunt down any strays. It looks like one managed to survive a raccoon attack and it is still alive days later. It is missing part of a wing and hopefully can survive. It unsurprisingly has been hanging pretty close to the chicken coop and is making it inside before the door shuts! So it is maybe not the stupidest chicken in the bunch. We have had two more sets of lamb twins and a huge single lamb born since the last update. I will need to go out and tag and band on Sunday so we can integrate all of them into the momma/baby area. The weather has been very unusual, mid 40’s in December! This is so not normal for us. The front spring is already on the rise and the back winter runoff creek has not started up yet.

The ram is not doing his job in a timely fashion. The ewes are taking their sweet time with having babies. We are talking about getting a second ram so in the off season they can have a buddy. We will also split the ewes into two herds. Once we figure out who is the more active ram we will divide up the ewes in the correct proportion. This will also let us save more of the ewes for cross breeding purposes. If we rotate out the ram every three years this will add significantly to our size upgrade. We really want to get the lambing all done in 30 days.

  • Lamb update
  • 22 lambs born
  • 14 ewes delivered
  • 20 pregnant ewes(maybe)
  • 6 single lambs
  • 8 twin lambs
  • 1 bummer lamb
  • 21 lambs on the farm
  • 157% birthing rate
  • 150% production rate (goal >150%)
  • 100% survival rate at birth
  • 100% survival rate at 2 weeks (7/7)

Is it dead?

The weather is trying to decide what to do. We had another 1.5” of rain, for a total of 20.18” this year. The power outage wiped our cumulative number off our gauge so now I will have to keep a running total. The last two days the wind has been howling 40+ MPH, which caused a new tree branch to be lodged in the front yard. It was supposed to snow 6-12” in the mountains also. We can see snow from the house but I don’t know how much was actually laid down. The wind was so bad that our old black alpaca was laying down with his butt to the wind and his neck stretched out and head on the ground. Annmarie could see him from the kitchen window and was convinced he had died. He moved his head after a few minutes but he is old. He stays in the orchard with the two sheep because he can still go to the fence, grumble and spit at the other alpaca and he does not have to fight them as they cannot get to him. It’s the perfect setup for a grumpy old man.

We had a power outage last night. Luckily, the potatoes were already baked in the oven, I had already started steaming the broccoli and I had already cut up the toppings. The only thing I was waiting on was to zap the bacon bits in the microwave just before we needed them. Since we have a propane cooktop I just used the lighter to fire up the burner, no electricity needed and the bacon bits got warm and a little crunchier. To fire up our free standing propane stove you just put 4 AA batteries in the holder at the bottom of the stove and turn on the switch and it fires right up! The repair person had just been out 30 minutes before we lost power to put in a new thermostat controller in it so I was able to message him and get a quick answer. We had not needed to do that in the last 13 years. It’s a good thing to know. Sarah opted to stay for dinner as she did not know she still had power at her house. The outage only affected around 25 households according to the power company website. Annmarie checked it when she went in to the hospital for rounds. We had power in the morning! We also figured out that our fancy old style phone was the problem not my phone jack wiring job!! So now we have an old school, no power necessary, phone in our bedroom. We still have a landline. The old lamps worked great once we found them all. They use a liquid wax not oil, its safer and works well.

I had noticed that my chickens are laying fewer eggs and the other night I went in the coop after dark and realized that the light was out. So I replaced the light and two days later they had already broken the new light bulb. It is inside a glass shade but if they fly around they can still break the filament causing the lightbulb to not work. I really need a LED light to go inside the coop. The chickens had even missed the automatic door and I found 9 chickens outside the coop two days ago. They were not real happy with being tossed into the coop unceremoniously. Some of them even voiced their displeasure at the efficient handling.

I picked up our processed pig yesterday and brought it home and put it in the newly defrosted freezer. There is just enough room left to put the two lambs in after the pig and cow are stored, one shelf left. Both freezers will be full next week. We have been missing lamb from our diet.

Annmarie has me doing gluing on her laser projects. I am ok with just being the assembly person! She made a circular lantern that had no glue, hands down the hardest to assemble so far. Incredibly tight tolerances and I even had to sand down one piece to get it to go together. She is cutting out more pieces today.

Farm 5, Predators 2

It’s happening again, the battles have continued and both sides have sustained casualties. For the last few weeks when the dogs go outside they have been tearing out the door and off the porch. We even flip th outside light off and on to warn any cats that the dogs are coming. They have been barking at things that we assumed were cats out in the yard. This morning as I was letting them out to head to work in the dark the tone of their barking was far more menacing. I ran back into the house and grabbed my new 22 pistol. The pistol needs sighted in but I had my hearing aids in and the pistol has a muffler on it, making my audiologist happy, to keep the noise under 85db. It is fairly quiet. There was a bag of black sunflowers on the old porch that I have been feeding the quail from and there was a raccoon in it! I shot it twice then heard this chittering noise. It is pitch black outside and the border collies abandoned me as soon as I ran out with the pistol. They do not like the noise. I waved the flashlight around and spotted three more raccoons! They had climbed up the porch railings and were hanging there. I tried to shoot one off the railing and realized I was out of ammunition. I had not brought more and I had not reloaded after the last melee. I usually only squeeze off a couple of rounds and then am done shooting. I had to run back in the house to grab another clip and reload. The raccoons all started running for the back dry creek bed when I left. I managed to find two up in the large bush behind our house and dispatched them. The 3rd and 4th got away but I am pretty sure there will only be one tonight. I plan on leaving the seed out so I can see if the last one can be dispatched. I found two dead chickens tonight when I was getting eggs and my 30 chickens are only laying 5 eggs/day, something is upsetting them.

When I came home tonight the dogs and I went into the upper pastures and pushed the sheep back down into the barn. It was not horrible, my voice did get a little hoarse after directing two border collies. After we had everyone in the barn I drove the two carcasses up to one of our boneyards. The Border Collies got to tear it up and run around on our place while I drove the tractor. They don’t get out much when I am on the tractor because they disappear. They will sneak off and either harass the deer or sneak back and harass the livestock. Sometimes they will stay in the field and just kill voles but after eating 15-20 voles when they fart it is a terrible smell. So mostly they have to stay in the yard unless they are working animals. The occasional jaunt is good for them. I would bring them more often but they are just too animal focused and will lock onto anything and attempt to control it. There is no real off switch, its needed but it can be annoying. This is the real reason people don’t understand the breed, you cannot let them get bored and they must have a large amount of exercise or they will make you crazy and develop bad habits.

I am continuing my pursuit of old marbles. I have a few people who look for them for me when they go to yard sales. These bad boys have been washed and polished and are ready for the container up in our office. The one in the living room is full already. It usually takes me a few years to fill one of the containers up. I like them and they remind me of playing with them as a kid which always brings a smile to my face.

The chickens are trying to die again. It is a battle sometimes to keep them alive. I heard Gizmo barking outside in the dark so I ran out with the pistol locked and loaded. Gizmo was being an idiot and was barking at nothing. I peeked over at the chicken coop just to be safe and spotted multiple chickens locked out of the coop. I had to go back inside and put something on my feet that was not slippers. I found nine chickens outside the coop! I tossed them all back into the coop and only a couple were upset about it, most made no noise at all. There are 39 chickens in the coop with at least three roosters and one very old hen. I am going to cull them soon. I keep saying that but I really wanted the babies to develop enough that I can see how many roosters are in the free chicks so they can be done all at once.

Our freestanding propane stove in the dining room does not work, I called two weeks ago and talked to the heating guy. He put me on the list. This week the temperature drops below freezing and no heating guy. I called on Wednesday, he answered and led conversation with the fact he would be out on Thursday or Friday. I told him if he wasn’t I was going to have the wife start calling him! He laughed and made it out on Friday. We need a new thermostat and a spider had made a nest in the pilot light hole and was preventing the stove from lighting. We can now turn the stove on or off and have purchased a $10 fan that sits behind the stove on the ground to blow air around it. Due to the existing heating system distribution we can only heat the downstairs to about 64 without the freestanding stove. Once the freestanding stove works we only use the main furnace as a fan to circulate the hot air throughout the house.

Thursday night was supposed to be coldest day this fall so Annmarie and I went out to feed the animals for the first time in the barn. I needed to move a large bale of hay into Alcatraz area and Annmarie headed to the barn. We were dressed for cold weather as we are simply not used to it yet. We both had head lamps but I chose not to turn mine one. I usually blind Annmarie with it when we are out after dark and I knew where the tractor was. I am trudging along at a fast pace mere six feet from the tractor when I managed to step into the harrow and then attempt a third step, this caused me to fall forward into the dark. I managed to catch myself on the ground with my arms but my left shin was pinned up against the harrow support bar. I managed to tweak my knee and have a bone bruise but nothing else. I turned my head lamp on right after that and kept it on the whole time. I may want to do this all the time!

Forever Friday 35/45

Only 9 days left as I did all of this work yesterday! We are actually going to go to the coast for some actual rest and relaxation so I have fewer days than that to work on the farm. I need to be ready for Winter and its getting close to being finished and close to being winter!

I keep trying to get more organized. This is probably my single biggest hurdle. I will be making labels for my tool drawers next so I can finish organizing the new tool box and storage area in the machine shop. I am going to have Annmarie engrave labels on metal and get magnets for them so I can move them around if needed because I will not be happy with the first version. I also spent an hour and cleaned up all of the fencing buckets, tossed out the trash and got everything organized into grouped bins. I think I need to make a couple of shelves above this area to put tools onto, that project can happen later after everything else is done. I did take the drain hose and elevate it. It doesn’t weigh very much but it takes up a lot of space. I have this for around the barn but did not have time to get it into the ground. I used the old rope and pulley that used to hold up the fuel nozzle from outside the machine shed.

I had the pickup and trailer in the ram pasture but it was hard to drive in through the new gate as I am not going to get the flooded out culvert cleaned up and replaced. The angle of approach needed to be adjusted to make coming around the old chicken coop easier. This option had been discussed and since it rained 12/100” last night I thought moving some dirt was perfect. The moisture did not go down far but it did help some. I have a pile of dirt that I have been slowly lowering and I just lowered it enough to create a drivable dirt path. My little tractor can do this but it takes a lot of time with a 1/3 cubic yard bucket and a four foot wide box blade.

I got two more rock cribs finished and full of rocks. I am so ready for work where I do not have to move a few thousand pounds of rock a day. My limit alone is about 10,000 lbs of rock a day, which is only two cribs as I have to move the rock twice. After that I am ready to move onto a different job. So I ended up grading the animal access to the spring. It had three old post holes that needed cleaned up as we widened the water access and made it more into a funnel shape. I also dug out the water area to widen it and harden the far bank. My waterproof muck boots have gotten a serious workout this year.

I ended up watering the new plants with a bucket and collected eggs. For some reasons the chickens are slacking off as I only got seven eggs yesterday. I am unsure why, I am thinking it is time to cull all three roosters and the ancient hen who can only crab walk. The chickens don’t lay well when I disturb the normal patterns but since they are not laying anyway I might as well do it now.