Time to start getting ready for winter

It’s been a long week at work and sometimes the farm is just what you need for a reset. This week was definitely a reset week. On Monday one of the calves got out again. Now I had already tooted my horn about the fence repairs from last weekend and told the wife no one was getting out. It took almost 24 hours for one of the calves to prove me wrong. She got it back into the lower fields by opening the gate and herding it in. It wanted to go see its mama. This left the dang water crossing that the bull beat up all last year. Annmarie told me that what I really needed was a culvert in the spot. I could then secure the fence to the culvert and the water and dirt would hold it down and prevent the bull from getting through or for that matter, any of the cows. I actually like this idea a lot! I have a four foot diameter culvert that could be cut in two to make two ten foot sections and one could be used here. The other one is for another crossing I am having trouble with. Pulling the eight foot trailer across the ten foot culvert when it is loaded and there is an eight foot drop on one side makes some people nervous. I need to add about 3-4 feet to this to prevent any mishaps from sloppy drivers. It was hot, I was just getting off work and not dressed to do any type of complex fencing. There happened to be a rats nest of fencing from the spring work laying around and I “installed” it in the fence to prevent anyone else from leaving. We have not had a single animal escape since my repair.

Friday I cleaned out the old big bales from the machine shop. They are light enough with some maneuvering I can get them about eight inches off the ground and carry them with the pallet forks using my new Kubota tractor. We will need to set up the full horse arena out by the grain bins to keep the alpaca away from the large hay bales we will have to store outside. I get about half in the machine shed and the rest outside. We feed the outside bales first so by the time the weather really gets bad we are feeding nice bales from the shed.

Our plan for the day was to work the cows and sheep. The rams needed to be pulled off of the sheep herd. Our house calendar says we should start lambing at the end of the month. This means the herd needs to be closer to the house. I am not sure that we are but that is what our calendar says. We still had two cows to tag and one to band. The upper five cows needed to be swapped with the lower cows. There is more feed above the house, there is also most likely a cougar. We lost four lambs again during this summer. A cougar has been spotted by several people but we have not seen it. Moving the fewer cows down below the house means they can work on the less available forage easier. The real problem with moving cows into field 2-4 is that we have to bring them in every night so we don’t lose any to a big cat. This choice has really been taken away since there is no rain. I noticed tonight that the running water that was going through all of field 4 is drying up about half way through the pasture. The most cows have to go to the most feed.

Annmarie, the child and Mr Professional all worked on animals. Mr I Need a Belt Bad was weeding the back garden then going out into the berry patch and doing more weeding. I do not believe that he would choose weeding as a primary task if he had a choice, but the weeding does need to get done. The thistles are trying to take over the berry patch. They went to get the cows while I moved the calf table in place and put up part of the horse movable arena around the calf table. We set it up so that we could just leave an open gate back into the corral and the calves would not run all over heck and gone. I used the new Kubota tractor with my pallet fork attachment, so amazing. Something that would have taken me an hour got done in 20 minutes. I am loving the pallet fork attachment, even if I can only lift 1100 pounds.

We put the sheep into the back barn lot Friday night so they were ready for us when we needed them Saturday. We pushed the upper sheep down and sorted off the steer/bull undescended testicle guy, we are not quite sure about his testicle status. Yes, a neutered cow,steer can still push out his penis. My record keeping skills are not the best in this area. We gave everyone pour over fly medicine and sorted the bull off and put him in Alcatraz with the other two bulls. We then moved all 16 cows from below into the corral. We did pour over on everyone and then tagged and banded two calves, one boy (our youngest) and tagged the “squirter” that got away last time. I had her in the chute with a lot of other cows and she was at the end. I just pushed her into more cows until she was pinned then reached over and tagged her. The calve we used the calf table and it went very smoothly. We will be using the portable fencing whenever we do this in the future. I had plans to build a permanent calve chute but honestly it was going to take forever and this is so much easier. After we pushed them up into field 4 (they can just walk into 2-3), we tried to push the four cows from the upper pasture through the yard into the orchard. This did not go well. Not well at all,as there was much yelling and dogs not cooperating or cows complying. Mr I Need a Belt bad left the gate into the garden open. We ended up with a five hundred pound cow jumping onto our elevated beds and watering system. There was a lot of screaming at him to get out of the berry patch and go shut the gate after the cow ran out. He was headed for that gate when more screaming ensued to make sure he had just latched the gate he had used to get into the yard as three cows were headed his way. He had latched it, he hurried with some prompting and got the gate closed. Later at quitting time we discussed the gate rule on a farm. Leave it in the position you found it unless told otherwise. You don’t need to know why just do it, there is a reason. We did get them down below where they belong.

We set up the barn so we could run the sheep down the chute then sort them on their way out. We only needed four sorted off to go into the orchard, two rams and two whethers. The sheep would not go down the chute. They bunched up in front of the opening and refused to go further. As we discussed options Annmarie noted that the boys were right in front of us. We just caught all four and pushed them into a pen. Our old ram is a gentle giant passive resistance is his greatest skill. He had to be pushed into the pen, they are all now in the orchard. We plan on letting the momma sheep work on the front hillside for a few days to clean it up.

There were quite a few disparaging remarks about the ability of the corral gates to open and to latch. We had some we could hardly get open and a couple that would not latch or you had to stand on the end of the gate to latch it. So Mr Professional and I spent a couple of hours and installed chains across the top of the corral chute and we did the same over some gates. We rehung four gates also to lift them out of the dirt. Not surprisingly the gates and corral work a lot better now than they did when we actually used them for animals. It was triple digit hot so we called it quits at 1500.

I had to go up with the tractor after dinner and put the cows in. They were already in field four but I did not want to have to go to the end of field four every morning to open the gate. I just pushed them into the back barn lot and in the morning we just need to open the connecting gate. It can stay open until the cows come back in again at dark. I figure in a few days they should have it down and will put themselves in every night. At least that is my fervent hope.

Back to haying with some interruptions

Well as always things progress on Mother Nature’s schedule. I keep thinking she will cut me some slack, and honestly she did, I was able to work on the front porch for three days straight a week ago! Now it is back to haying. I have one field left, #1, 7 acres of grass, triticale, oat and something else. It’s a pretty big mashup from all the different attempts to plant and the flooding. The field looks great but seven acres is going to take at least 7 hours to cut and as thick as it is it will most likely take even longer. So I went out on Thursday after work to do some cutting, Mr Professional was already out cutting so I swapped him out so he could go home. I only managed a to do about two hours before I broke the sickle bar mower. I thought it was making more noise than normal and I was right, except being right meant the mower was broken again.

We have a bunny living on the place, it keeps running around the corral, barn and car area. We spot it almost every day. When we were working cows it just kept hanging around us, never really ran off. I think it is one of the Pygmy rabbits native to Oregon. We get them occasionally but usually they succumb to the predator birds. Who doesn’t like rabbit in their diets? We would not mind having a few on the farm but they can never seem to get established.

Friday was maintenance day, my least favorite day of the year. I can mechanic, I just really don’t like to do it. We ended up breaking the sickle bar bolt that joins the bar to the rocker arm. The real problem with this is it is a double threaded bolt, it is threaded through the arm and then a nut to lock it in place. The real problem is there is not very much room on the backside of the arm and you have to use two fingers to get the nut on as soon as the bolt comes out of the arm. When the bolt brakes this causes a problem as there is very little room to work and you have to break out a drill and easy out. We were able to have enough of a lip to cut a groove in the end with a sawzall and then use a flat head screwdriver and some WD40. It worked and we were able to get the old one out, since we were working on the mower we swapped out the cutting bar blades also. This would have been easier if we had pressure washed the blades first. It took a ratchet strap and an anchor point to pull the blade out after I had it unbolted.

After a few hours we had it all back together and working. Mr Professional was turning hay while I baled it. I was having trouble with the baler as it kept jamming. Mr Professional thought I was going to fast so we switched jobs, I accidentally ran over a completed bale and caused the rake to slam into the ground breaking the wheels again. I thought we were done, nope he just tore off the wheels and kept going. This does need to be corrected eventually but for now this will work. It looks pretty weird. We finally just gave up on baling. It was too wet so we went back and swapped out the baler for the mower and I went out and finished cutting the last two acres. I can drive around in circles no problem. I brought a couple of bales back to the machine shed and tested them for moisture content 24-30%, too high.

Saturday was scheduled to be our big day, we were going to do cows. Honestly, I think that all couple therapy should have a live animal sorting component. It’s brutal and yes, I am learning but I still keep screwing up. So after the first thirty minutes we had a routine. I had gone in to pick up Mr I Need a Belt Bad, and Annmarie called me to say we needed tick medicine. So we waited for the ranch store to open and picked up some pour over medicine and some fly bags. Annmarie had already moved the mommas and babies into the barn lot and everyone was ready to be sorted. We moved the calf table onto the end of the corral chute. The plan was to crowd the chute, dose the mommas and then sort them off and then deal with the calves. The chute is spreading and has been for several years. I had always intended to put chains up high to prevent that from happening but have never done it. It’s going to have to happen. There are two gates that won’t latch, one is just spread apart and the other is on the down hill side and the gate keeps tipping up away from the predrilled holes. I need to stop the downhill slide. So I added the corral to the to do list for this year.

We got medicine on the mommas, and managed to get all of the calves tagged but one. It was a squirter, it got past the neck lock and then Annmarie and Meathead tried to catch it, they were hollering for me, but I was in the chute and by the time I got out and touched the calf it got away. Luckily, its a little girl. We found another boy with undescended testicles. It’s scrotal sack was empty and shrunken so there was no way for me to use the bander. I may have to learn how to cut instead of using a bander, maybe just cut if there is no other option for me. It’s a stupid problem but one we keep having. So now we have a bull from last year (one nutter) and now we have a fully intact calf. They have to stay off by themselves after they are weaned. Meathead ended up getting bitten by one of the calves when she was holding their head. I did not think they would do that but the obvious bite mark on her palm contradicts my belief!

Mr Professional came out about the time the last calf got away so we opted to push them back to the barn but they had ran down to their old stomping grounds. They were wild, crazy, panting and drooling and would not go where they needed so Annmarie just called it off, we will do it later, they were too stressed. Unfortunately, our plan to just let the calves go did not work, we were missing one. So the five of us searched the area, I used the tractor, and Mr Professional found the calf at the far end of the driveway down by the cattle guard. This is looking more and more like I need to put in the double gates down by the in-laws house so when we work animals we can close the gates and keep them from running and hiding from us. This didn’t make the to do list but it keeps coming up as an option. It took six hours to do all of that, sort the eaters and sort off the bull and put him in with the females. We also pulled off three breeders from the feeders who were hanging out in field#4 and tossed them in with the bull. He should be happy now! He has been locked away for over six months. The one nutter and a steer are now in Alcatraz as there are a couple of young heifers in the feeder herd. We have seven cows for sale this year, a one nutter and a ground beef only 15 year old cow are in that total. We really have handling the sheep down to an art, and working the cows is an act of frustration. I have added a corral remodel to the list. We need to create another pen, a calf chute and a place for the calf table to reside so we can work easily and keep all of the calves contained. This means actually drawing up some plans, taking some actual measurements and then gathering all of the materials. I already know we will need to custom create at least three gates but most likely five to fit the new configuration. I want the chute to be smaller, our current one is 24” wide, so I am thinking 16”-18”. I want it too small for the adult cows to enter, so it should probably only be 16”. I will need to chain the entrance to keep it from spreading and maybe even put a chain lower down so the adults would have to bend down to get lined up on the narrow opening. This can only happen in the spring when the ground is soft enough to really make drilling holes with the auger easy.

Mr I Need a Belt Bad and I ate lunch then we talked about him weeding the garden and porch area. We still need to work on our communication. Annmarie tells me I did not let him give me a stop time, I asked for a job time estimate and he said an hour, I figured two for the job. I paid him for the day and then went out to turn hay, while I was hooking up the rake he left, after an hour. I suspect he had already given a stop time to his ride but that was not communicated to me. So I have a new plan, quitting time is 1630, every day he comes out. This just makes it easier on all parties and we all know the stop time. Sometimes I forget what it is like to be around teenagers, then they remind me. One would think after all these years and countless teenagers I would have this down to a science but they are all different and it takes a while to get things figured out.

I went out and finished turning the hay, I love the smell. Plus, we have a set of baby deer twins that are cat sized! They are very tiny and very cute. The birds love all of the grain and the hawks love the voles that get disturbed. It is very peaceful to just go around in circles, listen to a book on tape (nothing educational, pure pleasure) and drink water/gatorade. In the morning I will start baling and get it all ready for someone else to pickup and put in the barn.

Veal anyone?

Saturday was the day we were supposed to sort the cows, tag & band the calf and create three groups of animals, the pregnant ones, the impregnators and future food. We thought this was going to be fairly simple and take a couple of hours. As always when working animals and having some basic expectations things did not go as planned.

Mr Professional came out to help, we started with the cows in the upper field. This let us sort off the new calf. Annmarie got the calf into the chute with no fuss. Mr Professional and I both attempted to get it banded while the calf was standing. It was old mean green tag bittie’s baby so of course it had one testicle that did not want to descend. This seems to be genetic and is one of the reasons we are getting rid of her next year. We sorted them and even left a pregnant cow in the back of the corral as bait for the cows on the other end of the property. When I looked up on the back hill side the cows were right behind the house. Annmarie and Mr Professional when out to push them in. I followed a few minutes later but noticed that the cows were not coming toward the house, they were walking away. I walked back to the house and got both border collies. The cows went all the way down to the schoolhouse before Annmarie got them turned around. The dogs and I waited about half way down the field and then worked on pushing them up toward the house. The cows of course went over into the other field by my mother-in-law’s house and had to be pushed out by Annmarie. This group of cows had the bull, one nutter and most of the six month calves that needed to be weaned. We sorted them and had all the pregnant cows, all six, in the back pen. The bull, the ram and one nutter all went into Alcatraz with virtually no fuss. We did discover that our ram, male sheep, is so comfortable around the cows because he is the boss. Our 1000lb bull was running away from him when we put both of them in the cow milking area.

We had all the calves sorted but the two left in the corral. Mr Professional and I started to push the pregnant group back behind the barn and across to the gates leading down stream. About half way across the ram pasture I heard this banshee yell. I of course cannot tell what is being said, just the banshee yell again. I hollered back and more banshee hollering occurred. At no point in this “communication” did it occur to me that there was a problem. All she had to do was push two calves over into the back lot with all the other calves. Should not have resulted in banshee screams. My cell phone started ringing, turns out the banshee hollers were a cry for help. Both calves decided to jump the fence, for no good reason, and one of them caught its back leg and was hanging nose on the ground from the top of the fence. I grabbed some fence cutters from the old house and went and cut on my barn lot fence to let the stupid animal loose. It tore off down by my mother-in-law’s house. I walked down with Mr Professional to just push them back into the lower field. They were crazy!! Before I knew it they had ran down the entire driveway and were seen leaping over our cattle guard and running out onto the road.

This required some planning so we got a lasso, fired up the side by side and went into the house to get the border collies. When we sort in the corral we have to put the collies in the house or they run alongside the corral or sit and stare at the animals and keep them out of pen simply by staring them down. Annmarie was going to drive the pickup but as we started loading up the vehicles I spotted both calves on the upper fence line behind the house. They had already ran down to four corners, up the road and into the upper CRP field and now were running along the fence line looking for momma. So Annmarie and I each took a dog and headed up to the CRP, I went up the bottom to open a couple of gates hoping we could just push the calves down off the hillside into the lower pasture. Mr Professional took the side by side around and onto the road and into the upper CRP field. By this time Annmarie and I had walkie talkies. We bought two $20 amazing radios and they work! Way better than a cell phone. The calves just kept running, I ended up at the far end of the place and Annmarie was all over the CRP field. We lost sight of one of the calves and I finally gave up and just walked to the house to get the pickup. I drove into the CRP field at the far end and picked up Annmarie. We drove over and tried to herd the single calf in through the open gate. Nope! It broke and tore off into the CRP again. I finally stopped the pickup and got out with both dogs and let Annmarie drive. About that time the calf bolted and she floored it and tore off in the pickup going 50 MPH in the CRP. I was fairly certain she did not realize there are some huge boulders hiding in the CRP, this was later confirmed that she did not realize this pickup breaking possibility was present. Mr Professional ended up diving off of the side by side and tackling the calf. Annmarie ran over and put the lasso over its head and held it down while he tied the rope off to the side by side. I was still walking over to them and they had gotten the calf hog tied by the time I got there. The neighbors drove up in their side by side letting us know that our other calf was over the hill and had already jumped through two more fences and disappeared into a wheat field. Since Annmarie had been hollering for a 30-06 cure to this debacle I opted to just call it quits and hope the calf came back, either way we were good with our decision. Her pedometer said we had walked 6.5 miles already for the day. The calf in the back of the pickup got untied about half way back to the house and Mr Professional had to just hold on until we could get into the correct pen.

The next morning after a wonderful pancake breakfast, Annmarie calls me as she heads out to church that the calf is in our wheat field and I should go open the gate. By the time I got my coat on and walked out to the front yard in my slippers the calf was already down by my mother-in-law’s house. I walked down, in my slippers, hoping to just open the same gate I tried the day before. Big surprise the stupid calf ran down the driveway and across the boards on the cattle guard. I had placed two sheets of plywood across the cattle guard the day before in the hopes the calf would find its way home. At this point I am ready for the 30-06 cure to cattle wrangling also.

I went and got the side by side and was going to drive down the edge of the wheat field and hope to cut the calf off at four corners when a young man drove in the driveway to tell me our calf was out on the road. We devised a plan where I drive down to four corners and open the gates and keep the calf from running by and he pushes it toward the open gates. It took about 20 minutes but it actually worked. It took me another 15 minutes to get it in the field with its mother, definitely a momma’s boy. We have decided to give it a couple of weeks before trying to sort it off again. This time we are going to sort it off in the chute, run it into the horse trailer and drive it the 50 yards to the correct pen and just let it out of the trailer.