I am no longer in running shape

Last weekend we needed to work the cows again.  It seems like a never ending need but we had two more calves sneak out unexpectedly and they needed to be tagged and banded.  Mr Professional and I were going to show Annmarie and go out and just get the cows in and then she would not have to walk the entire length of the farm several times.  I opened the lower gate behind the house but did not go to the top of the fence and open the upper gate.  I didn’t think I would need to…

We walked down and pushed the cows towards our house.  They wanted to go into the orchard but we had the sheep in there so I did not want to run them through the sheep and alpaca.  We would have to sort species after that which would cause more drama, best to be avoided.  We had the cows almost to the fence and one female cow decided she was not going and bolted straight up the hill.  I had to sprint up the entire length of the hill to cut her off.  We left the dogs at the house also.  I sprinted up the hill a second time and cut her off.  The cows wanted to go in the closed upper gate.  The third time she bolted for the top again I started to sprint and just said “piss on it” and quit.  My foot had a blister and I was tired and this was obviously not working.  Annmarie came out and opened the upper gate, I went and got the dogs and we pushed them over into the field behind the house.  We again had a horrible time getting them down near the back creek.  I will need to fix the gate opening and put the new opening in the corner of the field so we can easily push the animals through.  We did get them into the barn lot and tagged a little girl and tag and banded a little boy.  The calves were small enough they were easy to handle.  Unfortunately we had a 5 month old girl that the bull kept paying too much attention.  So we had to sort her off and who we thought was momma.  7E97FB6A-EDE9-40A3-963A-B0801C0E070A
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The three cows above got sorted off and sent into the upper pastures with the other isolated cows.  No bull up there.  Annmarie pointed out another problem after we sorted them off.  The old green tag cow that she wanted to make into hamburger and we sorted off early to prevent her from getting pregnant is very pregnant.  So now she is going to have another calf and avoid the dinner table for another year.

We had the dogs out chasing cows with us and since this entire process took four hours they were “dog tired” afterwards.  Kittens were spotted down in the blackberry bushes hanging out.

This week after work we set up the storage shelves and made a spot for a very large toolbox and the welding job box.  The welding tables also got moved around to the front of the machine shop.  Once all the tools get put away the drawers will get labeled and I will bring out a grinding wheel/wire brush combo and bolt it down to the table.  We should be able to manufacture about 80% of our needed things.  It’s just that I hate getting organized.  I ended up getting bins and each piece of equipment is going to have a bin of new parts.  This is necessary when all of your hay equipment is made in Italy.

The needed but dreaded sorting of animals

It had to come, the animals all needed to be worked and sorted but it is always a painful task.  Making matters worse is the fact that we decided to work the sheep and the cows in the same day and to complicate it even further the barn lot flood damage has not been repaired.  Annmarie went down stream with Mouse to push the cows up to the house.  They were doing great, one of the cows then the herd tried to bolt around and Mouse headed them off and got them turned around.  Five minutes later one of the cows decided she was a greyhound and took off, Mouse was unable to get ahead of her, he was able to catch up to her but ran alongside her and could not get her to turn.  This caused all of the cows to break and Slim and I and Zeke had to go down to the school house to help bring the cows back up.  This event seemed to crush Mouse’s ego and he then became a terror towards the cows and would not listen.  He was determined to get a few licks and bites in before we quit working the cattle.  Despite a couple of warnings he persisted in ignoring us until it was pointed out to him that he was not the boss by me.  He kept ignoring Annmarie, which is unusual as he prefers to work for her and not me.  It took us an hour to get the cows up into the corral.  The bull and boys were just on the other side of the gate.  We needed to pour insecticide over the cows and to tag and band Cupid who is another boy.  The really screwy part is that we thought there were two calves that needed to be addressed.  Nope, one of the calves managed to rip its ear tag out.  I had to grab its ear and find the hole to make sure.  We sorted the cows and took our original green tag cow and three more heifers off of the main herd then let the bull, the steers and our little bull in with the the rest of the cows.  The little bull is only six months old and the cows are in heat so by the time he is ready to breed them they will all be pregnant.  We are going to eat him this winter.  Cupid doesn’t have the true white heart on his forehead like Valentine does.  I took more pictures of Valentine while he was in the corral.

 

I am going to have to work on the corral next year.  When I built it I had talked about installing thread all bars between the railroad ties in the chute.  I decided that it would stop me from walking down the corral on top which I like to do.  The cows have spread the chute far enough apart that my two internal gates are no longer latching and we had to chain the chute exit to stop them from pushing out.  I may just use cable and bolts with an inline tightener and some thread locking compound so it doesn’t come loose easily.  I will shrink the chute back up another three inches.  I won’t lay boards over the chute as it would form a tunnel that would cause the animals some consternation.  The four separated cows will go up onto the Upper Prime field.  They have lots of food and fresh water.  This will get them two fences away from the bull.  The old cow will just become hamburger and stew meat.  Annmarie and Donna have both been victims of this attacking cow and they will be very happy when she is gone.

 

Slim was helping us with the cows and then the sheep.  The sheep were a lot harder.  First, we did not know how many we had, I assumed we had about 105 and Annmarie thought we had 120, in reality we had 112.  Getting to the number 112, that took us sorting the sheep five different times and four people counting.  On the plus side, both Annmarie and I had the count right the first time but Slim and Mr Professional had different numbers so we kept counting until  the numbers stabilized and matched.  It’s hard to sell what you cannot quantify.  I realize this sounds easy but we spent almost two and a half hours sorting sheep.  We thinned the herd again hard this year.  It was time to do another heavy cull, we do this about every 5-7 years.  The first time we sorted off breeding ewes we had 48!  Our ram has a hurt foot and is kinda fat, he needs fewer females so we sorted ewes until we had 34 ewes and 1 ram.  This herd went into the upper prime pasture with the cull heifer cows.  We have 77 sheep to sell, 28 of them are cull ewes and we are keeping 9 lambs for us and for local customers.   We will put them into the orchard after I finish getting the hay put up.  The rest of the cows went down into the lower bottom, winter feed field. It has peas growing in it but the thistles and cheat grass are still present in significant quantity.  It will not be hay this year but the peas are good for the soil and good for the cows so it is a win regardless.

Slim and I then went onto fixing creek crossings to keep the sheep in their allotted space. Mr Professional went to go bale the hay in the orchard while the Future NASCAR driver worked on getting lawn beat down with a weed eater.  It is out of control and our mower needs more work.  The flooding caused some severe erosion in Stewart creek.  The picture on the right shows the ripples in the stream bed, every one of those ripple edges is part of a volcanic solid rock shelf, those were not visible prior to the flooding.  It just tore the earth away until it hit something solid.  We tried to move the stump out of the creek but its too heavy.  We cut branches off and once the creek dries out I will get in there with the chain saw and cut it up.  We needed the branches moved so we could drop the panels back down into the creek.  A new cable was installed across the top of the fence from rock crib to rock crib.

We then went down and tore out the panels and fencing from down by the Mother-in-law’s house.  I built a new fence alongside the spring in the orchard so this small fifty foot section was no longer needed.  We took down all the fence and salvaged the panels crossing the spring to use down below at the creek crossing.  The stream widened the bank by at least four feet down by our other crossing so we needed a couple more panels to bridge the gap.  I have also started to install my horse shoe latches at the gates.  Once we had that done it was time to call it quits as it was almost 1700.

Slim beat me to the house as Annmarie, I and Mr Professional were discussing a weed and trying to determine what it was so she called it quitting time and headed out.  She did send me a text but I had her take a picture of the lower creek crossing as my phone was dead.  LOL.  The plan is for her to come out and help shear alpaca next week.  .

 

 

 

Animal sorting gone awry

Well it is that time of year again, and I would love to say that sorting the animals went smoothly but since I am unsure if it has ever gone smoothly this would be counted as the worse.  Again, I would like to thank Coronavirus and my own inability to communicate my feelings and concerns in a manner that the female species understands.  I do realize that this is a failing on my part and grunts and reassurances are not a substitute for honest open conversation, for which I am not particularly good at.  That being said, it was brutal.

The cows needed sorted as we had an interested party in buying two 6 month old weanlings.  Plus we have a brand new calf, only three days old and by far and away the cutest calf we have ever had on the place!  He has a white shaped heart on his forehead.  New calf on the ground means no dogs to move the cows, they went along pretty good until they got to the near end of the orchard and my mostly down fence.  I am going to have to take a weekend and put the tunnel to the gate in so they do not balk near the gate and they don’t get hung up on anything.  We managed to sort the cows fairly easily and Annmarie was able to sort off the baby and catch it by herself!  We hardly ever get to them this early and it was a pleasure to work on something so small.  Luckily, I was able to find both testicles and got him tagged and banded.

We had the one nutter that is now four months old that needed to be banded.  I lined up our fabulous $50 calf table, that has been out in the weather all winter, and we were ready to go.  The calf probably only weighs around 300#, mind you it takes two grown men to take down and hold a 100# calf so it can be tagged and banded.  The calf table failed to perform or it did perform as expected from a $50 wonder, I think this depends on your perspective.  I broke the up/down bar for the neck guard using a cheater bar.  It was an abysmal failure and now we have a one nutter that will need to be pulled off in 2 more months.

Sarah and I tagged the last lamb that needed it and put the two ewes out with the main herd.  We had one lamb get out and after 20 minutes of chasing it around and it refusing to go through the open gate we gave up.  It eventually made it over by the yard and I let it in the yard then let everyone else inside.

Last weekend, the child and I worked on grouting the bathroom backsplash.  It looks amazing and I am very happy with how it turned out.  I will start moving electric outlets and light switches this week so we can install the blue pine tongue and groove boards on the wall.  I need to get the wall behind the toilet and next to the toilet installed before the plumber comes.  I am super excited to see how it turns out.

Annmarie embraced the use of the sheep as a lawnmower this week.  I am personally thrilled by this development and by the end of today they will have mowed down the yard to a very low level and I can ignore the lawn for another two weeks.  The only bad part of this process is the dogs start to smell like sheep all the time.  They also eat a lot of sheep poop, its like candy.

I also did my part of the taxes which is adding up all the expenses and income and collating it so Annmarie can input it into our taxes.  I knew we had to spend more due to the hay shortage last winter from all the heavy snow and then we bought even more hay to get us through the winter plus we purchased all the hay equipment, planting equipment and a side by side.  Wow.  Ouch almost $37k in equipment.  I know we needed to do it as we spend a lot annually for feed but I was surprised.  I should not have been but sitting down at the table and going through every individual receipt really brings it home.  This would be why I have to do it so I pay attention to where the money is going.

Yet despite all the angst, the heartache, the pain and hard work I still love it.  I love that my wife cares enough to try and get me to slow down.  It is days like this that I am reminded of why I do it.  What else would I do with my life?  Why would I do something else?  I ask myself this every once in a while but I never find a better answer.  So in this trying time take care of those you love, do what you can to help others and be cognizant that burning the candle at both ends is hazardous.

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Thinning the herd

 

3282DB75-6D04-4D23-98BF-1E3DC6872D3CFriday morning we lost water.  Now this happens at least annually and he had just had some power blips so I figured the pump had just kicked off.  The controller resides in the basement of my mother-in-law’s house.  I called a few times and realized she was out of the house.  Around noon I called and she was home, she attempted to reset the pump without success.  I went down to try and see if I could get it started.  The pump controller is pretty complicated so I try not and mess with it too much.  Annmarie has to reprogram it when I do just randomly push buttons and that takes some effort on her part.  We could not find the instruction manual after I tried to turn it off and on (would not do it) then pulled the fuses and got the error code to change from “OC3” to “Er2”.  I then attempted to search the internet for the control manual without success.  I even called a pump distributor with no success.  The longer I stared at the case the more the weird melted plastic section stood out.  I could not ever remember that being there.  I touched the plastic case and discovered that not only was the case melted but that section was hotter than anywhere else on the case.  I called Pendleton Electric, as they do well pump controllers knowledge gained courtesy of Google.  I was able to say I thought the pump controller had burned up and to read the tag on the size with the power ratings.  They wanted the Hp of the well motor but we don’t know it.

We went out to the barn to start sorting sheep and got a call that the repair guys were here.  It was less than two hours from the time I called!  Annmarie went down to answer questions and oversee.  This left the Child and I to sort all of the sheep.  This sounds like a great combination unfortunately sorting out animals is rough on a good day.  If you want to know how well you can work with someone then just try and sort animals with them.  You will realize that everyone else are a bunch of idiots and if they would just do what you ask of them this entire process would go smoothly.  Now when everyone thinks the same thing it tends to cause some problems.  Now that we have more 6 foot panels I was able to create a sweep gate in the back of the barn.  So as we push more sheep down the chute we can keep moving the sweep gate and shrinking their waiting area.  This was Annmarie’s idea but we never had enough panels or lightweight panels to move making this possible.   It worked great and will now be something that happens every time.

They were able to put in a new controller and yes the old one had burned up after 15 years.  The new one has a pressure display in pounds and nothing else.  It’s just a grey box.  You turn off the pump now by pulling the fuses.  Finally, a sensible design.  Unfortunately, they could not get the pressure up to 60#.  They maxed out at 57# which means we most likely have a leak.  Annmarie walked the entire length of the pipe and could not find any water bubbling up. This does not mean we don’t have a leak as Annmarie reminded me there was an area down by Donna’s that was wetter than we thought it should be last year but it never bubbled but it was near the front spring.  So we are going to look at that area hard this spring after all the rain stops or when we lose water totally.

The Child and I had to make some executive decisions as some of the lambs were marked for cull and keep.  Their temperament in the chute decided their fate.  The child doesn’t like sheep with “crazy eyes” and wanted to cull all bad behavior out of the herd.  We saved around 6-8 female lambs to replace the old ewes.  We had to save all the old ewes as they have babies.  We have 6 no tag Barbados sheep.  We had a brand of tag that the sheep could pull out by reaching through the woven wire fences and lost a lot of tags.  We are probably going to have to retag them so we can track their babies.  They all look alike and we would like to track their productivity.  We are going to sort off the ten cull ewes before we put the ram back in with the main herd.  They will spend most of the summer in the orchard so we know they are not pregnant when we sell them.

We ran them through the chute system and had 22 to sell written down and 23 in the pen. We tried to recount several times and discover who I had not written down.  We finally gave up and ran them back through the chute backwards.  All the keep animals were on the inside of the barn so the far end was empty and isolated from the main herd.  Before we got halfway through them we found the one I had missed.   I had set it up so those sell animals would stay in the milking area of the barn and the corral area.  This way when our buyer shows up we can load them and be done in under 15 minutes.

 

E92E12EB-52BA-4CCA-A4FD-1BEA203864BFI had to feed the bull and his two charges and the ram next.  The bull had gotten tired of the four panels surrounding the large bale of alfalfa and had hooked and thrown it off with his horns.  This is one of his talents that he knows and performs on a regular basis.  I pulled a large bale of alfalfa out of the machine shed and pushed it down to Alcatraz.  I had to open the gate to push the bale inside but this let the bull, 2 steer and the ram out.  I thought, foolishly, that they would follow the bale of alfalfa back into their pen.  Nope!  The bull ran over to the far gate and started hollering for female cows.  I got the bale situated and the panels around the new bales.  Both horses were in Alcatraz happily munching on alfalfa when I went out with the tractor to chase the animals back.  No one wanted to back to isolation.  It took me about 30 minutes of tractor wrangling to get everyone back into the pen.  I considered going and getting the dogs but last time I lost my voice convincing them that I was boss.  The tractor worked eventually.   The dogs do best in wide open spaces.  I was unable to get either horse away from the all you can eat alfalfa buffet so I just locked them in with the cows and ram.  Annmarie got them by just walking over to the pen later that evening.  They just walked over to see her, I am not their favorite or their leader.

Removing 23 teenagers, age 6 months or older really opened up the space in the barn.  I was surprised.  It was enough of a difference that we might end up with a teenage herd running around in the barn lot next winter.  We can open up the old lamb shed for shelter and just feed them out of the back of the barn.  I will need to think up a feeder type for the outside of the building.  The real problem are the horses.  What do we do with them?  They need some shelter, they will share with the sheep but an all you can eat buffet is not healthy for them despite what they think of the idea.

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Holiday slacking

It has been a not very productive December. I have actually done some things but not very exciting unless you are my wife. I spent a couple of weekends cleaning the inside of the house!

I got sick one weekend and it has rained hard twice so I did not feel the urge to go outside in the rain voluntarily. Annmarie reminded me this morning that it has been a while since I posted a blog page. I thought it had only been 2 weeks, turns out it has been exactly three weeks since I wrote the last one. I was told that my reading audience was craving a new post and to keep the readers satisfied I need to write. So I decided to summarize the last three weeks and set up the next year. I really need to work in my 2019 financials before the end of the year. I failed to post this after we completed our taxes in April. I will get those out before the end of the year. I publish them so that people can understand what it costs to get into farming/ranching. I would encourage everyone with a desire to do it, but you need to be realistic about who long it takes and what it costs and all the setbacks possible. This is a labor of love for us. It has taken us almost ten years to get to this point and once I get the hay equipment figured out in 2020 we will be self sufficient. I think this is the true key to success.

Sarah and I worked on the new yard fence yesterday. I remeasured and cut posts so they all are the same height from the top rail. I had a low one so I had to go back and recut them to get them matched. We installed eyebolts but ran out. I thought I had enough but I was 6 short. Not too bad considering I really needed 51 eyelets to complete the new fence. We got the one side installed, there are three wires stretched piano tight on top of the fence below. Zeke cannot jump over it now. He also cannot crawl under it. He has been getting out of the yard nonstop and it is making me crazy. So I watched him a couple of weeks ago. He went up to the front fence by the cars, he jumped up touched the top rail and landed back in his starting spot. He then jumped up and grabbed the top of the wooden rail with his front feet. He then hung there briefly and then scrambled up the fence with his back feet and ducked under the two wires on the front fence. There is a 6″ gap between the board and first wire. It took him 10 seconds and he was out of the yard. We added a third wire 3″ off the board yesterday. He should not be able to repeat that trick. This leads us to getting the new fence Zeke proofed. He is savvy enough to test any stretch that is a perceived barrier. He is proof that any weakness can be exploited given enough time and motivation.

Annmarie and I have had a lively discussion about my fence building next year. I know this is crazy but I like building fence. I also like the ability to segregate and move the animals around which cannot be done without lots of fencing. Due to the new hay endeavor I am told that I can only fix one fence, the one behind our house that keeps the animals down by the creek. It needs a new corner post and smaller gate and restretched. This is so we can run the cows from the schoolhouse up to the orchard and into the barn lot without going out by the cars and houses. This will be the first time we can do this as I just cut in the gate into the orchard this year. I negotiated for a second small section of fence in the orchard so we can create a funnel and fence off the area we want to plant Lavender in. We are looking at around 50 plants. I just remembered I did not finish that new gate. I have 70 feet of fence to finish down by the front ditch. So three small, tiny, insignificant stretches of fence to repair next year. Each section can be done in a single day. I will need the tractor for each section though. I have been trying to create new starts from my African Violets. I have had leaves in water for a few weeks. They had just started to put on roots so yesterday I planted them in mud hoping they can get a grip in their new home. I have five new plants started and I still have 5 more empty African Violet pots. They do so much better if you have the special pots. My plan is to remove the books from the book shelf and get only African Violets growing. We have some bulbs in a flat bucket that starts to grow every Christmas. This year I moved them to the second shelf so that the shoots can grow up through the mesh above and not fall over! I am constantly having to try and prop them up.

The hallway is now painted and I just need to order in some more wooden trim for the floor. This is a cash flow issue and currently I want to get the upstairs bathroom completed. I have all the floor tile and next weekend will go buy all the hardiboard and the paint on red colored waterproof sealant. I also need some mastic but since I am only doing 80 square feet I am just going to buy a premixed 3 gallon bucket. This project will get off the ground by the new year.

I got a Christmas package from my pen pal, Lady Evale this week. She sent fresh from her yard Matsuma tangerines and Myers Lemons. I got this amazing bottled ginger ale pop made with all real ingredients called Swamp Pop. It was amazing. I tried to buy it on the internet, and yes it is possible but ouch the shipping was twice the cost of the product. So I am going to pass. I have her package almost ready to go, I have been on the lookout for items since this summer. I need the right size box now. It is always a pleasant surprise to receive something out of the blue. The Christmas lemon meringue pie is coming from her lemons!

I have 26 baby chicks left out of 36 and only 8 laying hens. Since it is winter I am back down to my 25% production rate. Not very many people are getting eggs from us now. I think we sell 2-3 dozen a month now. I am hoping that changes in the spring time. It is supposed to and we will have quite the color variety on eggs when it does.

We have three calves to tag and band. I had to order more ear tags last week. We have had the same bull this entire time and he has thrown 2 boys for every girl without fail for the last 8 years. This is not normal. Our sheep female to male ratio is leaning towards more males but only by 8 and that is after 370 lambs have been born. We started ear tags with #1 and just keep going.

We have only had 3 lambs in the last 6 weeks. It is making me crazy. The ewes are very fat and I thought for sure December was our month but it is looking like January may be the month everyone explodes. We have three cows to be slaughtered in January so they have been eating as much as we can feed them. Still its only grass or alfalfa, we don’t finish them with grain so they are pretty lean.

This morning it was beautiful. Some days this is what makes it great. I do realize its a lot of work, but what else would I do with my time? I need two more used weathervanes. One for the old chicken coop and one for the old lamb shed, both pictured here. I may need one for the machine shed also. I think every old barn building should have a weathervane on it.