Machine shed joy

Yesterday was very productive, having Tex come out and help has really allowed us to take on some projects that had just been getting pushed to the side. We started the day by tagging and banding cows. Now mind you we knew there were three babies that needed to be tagged but until we catch them we don’t know their gender. Last time Annmarie did the tractor trick and they came out of the lower pasture to follow the tractor. This time she and Tex went outside and then I did the dishes. I saw the cows up on the back hillside so I ambled on out to the tractor with my coffee in hand and proceeded to drive up the back hillside. I figured the cows would follow the tractor. I proceeded to drink a lot of coffee on my way up the hillside. Well as soon as I got on top of the hill the cows started running in the opposite direction away from the tractor. Cell phones might sound like a great communication device but after the third time your wife calls you when you are supposed to be helping move cattle its time to ignore the phone. As soon as the cows heard the tractor they ran back down to the gate I always bring food in through!! Who is stupid now? By the time I got down off the hill I had just enough time to open the barn lot gate and they pushed the cows inside. We had them sorted in under 10 minutes. It took me about five minutes to get both testicles on the larger calf into the rubber band device. The calf kept peeing on me. I persevered but after 220 lambs I am a lot better at them. I have only done 18 steers and I messed up the first three.

We sorted off the cows to sell this fall. There was supposed to be two, there were three. So now I have to sell one more cow and Annmarie has convinced me we need to use her shared spreadsheet app she made in Airtable. We need to be able to keep track of days born and how many we have on hand. She inputted all three new calves into the system. We have sorted them off and they are now in the upper prime field. It has lots of green grass and running water. They are not happy about being sorted off of their mothers. We will have 7 cows for sale next year. We will finally have our numbers up.

I had to go to town and pickup gates for the front of the machine shop. I had to buy multiple sizes to get them to fit right as I cannot adjust the opening of the shop. I had to buy 10 gates for around $800. The 50 yards of gravel cost around $900, four days of labor cost around $600. Not to shabby for an incredibly useful space and a lot of it!!

We had to alternate attaching gates inside the opening or outside depending on whether we needed to fill in space or use less. We even managed to get most of them to match. Its hard to believe that they are on a slant from the left side to the right. I spent some time and spread out the rest of the gravel. While I did that Tex mounted 6 sheets of plywood into the hay area. We don’t want the hay scraps to fall back into the cleaned out area. He go six sheets up and I need to go buy six more to finish the wall separating the hay area and the rest of the shop.

While we were hanging gates Annmarie was taking a nap! I spotted the evidence that evening when I came inside. I was incredibly jealous. Tex also cleaned up all the junk behind the machine shed and dug out a drainage ditch. We will get it filled with gravel in the next week or so. This should help the moisture inside the shop also.

Animals all caught up

When I say “caught up” its a relative term when applied to farming. The animals were worked, we did sell off 7 and we did deal with sheep and cows. We have two calves just a few days old that could not be herded up into the corrals so they will have to wait for at least two more weeks before we can tag and band them, so we are “caught up”.

Tex was coming out again, so while I cooked breakfast Annmarie went out to see if she could lure the cows to the barn lot with some hay and the tractor. She only managed to get them out of the bottom and into the area around the house. But that saves us about an hour of walking and she did not get the bull or either brand new momma so the cows should be easier to work. After Breakfast I had Tex go finish installing cow panels along the creek in the barn lot over the metal panels. Otherwise the sheep can just cross through the water. I gathered all the tools necessary to work on the calf table. The thing will still not tilt right. I am convinced it is pinching somehow and we may have to take the table apart.

Tex came over and we started to pull it apart. We popped one hinge off and it still would not tip so we popped off the second hinge, the table is now free of any constraints except gravity and should tip on the frame. It would not tip more than about 30 degrees! As I am voicing my opinion abot an inanimate object I kept trying to get it to work when I spot a piece of bailing twine down at ground level hidden in the tall grass still attached. When I moved it from the junk yard I secured it in multiple places. I had forgotten to cut one small piece of bailing twine and that was the cause of the table not tipping. I had already sprayed lubricant on all the moving parts and cleaned up some rust. So it only took me about 3 hours of combined time to figure out the twine issue.

I had Tex go back and finish installing cow panels while I gathered all the tagging and banding supplies. I then grabbed both dogs and started to work the cows towards the barn lot, 30 minutes later, very hoarse voice from yelling at the dogs, I have them cornered up by the gate but they will not go into the barn lot. Annmarie comes out and the cows scatter. We put the dogs away, walk the cows to the barn lot, Tex comes out and the alpacas go into the barn lot and the cows follow. We where done in ten mintues.

The cows got sorted and we had a four month old boy and a three month old girl. Tex pinned the girl up at one end of the chute and she stuck her head through the gate so I put a tag in her ear, done. The little boy kept turning around in the chute going the wrong way. Tex said the way to get them into the table is to grab their tail and keep them from going out the other side. So he did that and we got the table turned and locked down. The calf kept trying to put his foot in weird spots but we were able to fix that. We used the large banderator for the first time. I had to pop the testicles through the band one at a time because they would barely go through. I finally had Tex hold the banderator so I could pop testicles through. They both finally got in the right spot and I slipped the band off. Four months is the max age for using that thing.

The sheep were next but for us to set up the chute system in the barn, Tex and I were going to have to dig for at least an hour. I convinced Annmarie we could just run everyone into the barn and we could snag them. We did it! We sorted off the ram, #1 ewe (she is limping), two whethers for their company, three whethers to sale and two young mommas with their single babies for sale.

Tex and I delivered the whethers and the mommas. While we were visiting the first house he got offered a summer job of moving sprinkler pipe every morning for 4 hours/day. I gave him the necessary contact information and he is thinking about it.

Tex swapped the gate and filled the gap with lumber. We need to put in a new H brace support going the other direction now. While he did that I finished bringing in dirt for the culvert and then set a few pieces of concrete at the waterfall edge of the spring in hopes it will slow down the errosion. I also filled the channel with gravel and rocks.

We had some more wooden stays to install and the new railroad ties needed to be set and the entire fence attached to the new posts. Tex did all of that while I started to bring over supplies for a new fence line. The sheep and cows keep getting out through the creek crossings so I have started to work on fencing the water ways away from the animals. I hauled over 27 T posts, 27 wooden stays, 4 thick wooden posts, 2 gates, 2 cow panels and 1 railroad tie (last one we have unused on the farm) and set them out along the fence line. I had already used orange paint to mark out the locations of everything.

Tex and I managed to pound in the T posts that would go into the ground. Some are not pretty but they did go in. If you look at the middle of the picture below you will see a stretch with no T posts, there is a rock bluff located under the road and we cold not get anything to go into the ground. After the fence is up I will see what I need to do to support that section of fence.

It was a very productive day. The barn lot fence is now completed. I just need to put a latch on the 16 foot wheeled gate, the sheep pushed it open last night. I would have sprayed but the wind howled all day. It was just too much to spray.

Reality check

Well it has been a long week. I didn’t get to do all my farm work this last weekend as I had to work all weekend at the paying job and Sunday was Easter. I had come home twice and found the sheep out in the stubble field eating volunteer wheat. It has been too wet for them to spray it down. The sheep really appreciate the extra feed. The only real problem is the field is not fenced off from the road and the sheep are not supposed to be out there. The first time I thought it was the gap at the gate. I thought this because the gate post was loose and there was a gap with sheep hair on either side so it was fairly obvious they had been pushing through. I patched that up with a spare gate filling the gap and some bungee cords. It was only supposed to be temporary so the bungee cords are okay. I came home several days later and spotted the sheep out again. I could not figure out how they were getting out. I cruised on down the fence line and found as spot they had started to squirt through. The nice thing about them shedding is it makes it fairly obvious where they are sneaking out.

I had Tex come out on Friday and add two more strands of wire to that fence. He also moved the railroad tie so there is no gap at the gate. We still need to add in a few wooden stays to the fence to stiffen it up so the sheep cannot push their way through.

We had a rain storm and it cut a rivulet into our new flower area. I think if I pile some dirt up on the frontside of the rock wall I may be able to slow this down. I may end up laying in a French drain on the front side of the rock wall to help. I am unsure exactly what I am going to do.

We had to start putting Zeke on the run as he kept sneaking out of the front yard. I had convinced myself he was running up some wood stacked in the corner of the yard. I moved some of the pile but he was still getting out. One day when Sarah was out moving dirt she watched him army crawl under the fence below. He laid down in the water with just his head and nose out of the water and got under the fence.

So I added another panel to the bottom that goes all the way to the spring bottom and he cannot crawl through now. I was so convinced of this that I left him off the run the next day. He got out! I still don’t know how he is doing it so he is back on the run when we are not home.

I spent two nights working on the barn lot fence. We added two more wooden posts and I took the extra panels I had laying around and added them. There will be no more calves jumping through the fence because they can. Now we just need to get the fence over by the lamb shed completed and the sheep will be stuck in the barn lot whenever we shut the gate.

More white stuff

I went around this morning after chores and moved more snow! I made it a point to go behind the machine shop and clear that gravel road, so the trash guys can just drive around the loop. Having the trash picked up every week is a luxury in the country and I need to spoil those guys whenever I can because we really appreciate it. The cows are starting to get covered in snow as they are not going down to the old school house or the willows to shelter from the weather. I think they think they will miss out on a meal if they go down there. I can now open the gate wide open, leave it open and just drive out into the pasture and all the cows follow the tractor and ignore the open gate. the food is with me and they all know it.

I stayed outside this morning for 2.5 hours until my hands and toes started to go numb. They were pretty red by the time I got inside and warmed them up at the gas stove.

We had another single lamb born this morning. I got her and ther mother into the momma baby area. The only problem is that tonight when I went out to feed and water the mommas and babies I noticed a possible prolapsed uterus or afterbirth. The problem with this is the ewe is very wild and wont let me get close to her. She is on the watch list and Annmarie will let me know how she is doing in the morning. We may have to pin her down and administer some care to her against her will.

The quail are now coming every day to eat on our back hillside. I had forgotten to feed them and had to go back out and give them their quart of food.

I have a horror story about last night. I put another coat of Varethane on last night so I am back to sleeping downstairs in the craft room on the floor. I woke up at 0130 freezing to death! I was shivering and cold. I thought it was time to wake up. Somehow the half door had gotten closed stopping all heat from entering the room. I got up out of bed, opened the door and went out to the living room and turned up the heat! I also took every throw blanket off of the couch and dug the only one downstairs out of a drawer. I felt like a mummy when I crawled back into my bed but I did fall asleep without suffocating.

The two bully alpaca are stuck out in the orchard. They have melted down a body wide hole in the snow and maintain it. I hardly every see them up and about. I suspect this is what they do in the wild. The rest of them just go into the machine shed and find cover. It is supposed to snow another 4-6 inches of snow tonight. It is official this February we have received the most snow on record about the last 125 years. We knew it was not normal and we were right. Now it needs to melt off slowly in the mountains or we are going to have some major points of flooding.

Staycation

Well there is nothing like a good old vacation at home to get some stuff finished. The only bad part about this is that something always comes up to get you off track and distracted from the main goal. Our weather has been horrible so I am now feeding the cows every night and occasionally I have to feed them morning and night.
We decided to integrate the ram and his three girls with the main sheep herd this week. I just opened the gate and he found his way over to the barn. We still have five ewes separated out from the main herd. Two of those are no longer pregnant and need to go back in with the main herd. The other three are first time mommas, so our working theory is that the reason they are so far behind everyone else is that they were not old enough to get pregnant when we put the ram in the first time. So we are going to just keep those three and their babies separated off for 7 months and then toss them back in with the main herd. This will be easier than keeping the ram separated. 7C078585-042E-4E64-AF73-9C3D4031999A Clean old milk shed area
C56F8681-A528-4B17-862C-5183F81E86C0
My favorite Y gate
1C30F912-5236-4116-9C3E-69153775008E
Spare room closet
I got a new phone and ended up using the blog app directly from the website and it let me add titles to my pictures. I really like that feature and may end up having to do it every time. We will see after I get the app up and running on my phone. The whole reason for this Staycation was to get the spare bedroom floor completed. This sounds easy as I only need to sand the paint off of the outer 2′ next to the walls. It took me two days to empty the room 100%. I was unsure how I was going to move the big ticket items alone when I spotted the smooth furniture discs in the closet. Annmarie got these several years ago to slide furniture around and I may have ridiculed the idea some. It’s much more manly to just lift things. Unfortunately when you are alone that is not really an option on a stand up dresser or armoire. I used the furniture sliders, and they were definitely slick and the way to go. I apologized to Annmarie when she came home. 42F18C33-8E50-4BE5-A4EE-CB554E4C1E17

Floor sanding gear

I do wear a dust mask when sanding inside as it gets very nasty quickly in the room with all the doors shut. I had only been at it a few hours when the palm sander died! A lot of tools are not designed for hours of use at a time. They think you will use it for an hour or less. Annmarie picked me up one at the feed store. I am on Staycation so the rule is I don’t leave the house. I have been very good and following this rule. We did go out to dinner on Friday night for Valentine’s Day. Amazing how easy it was to get reservations for the day after Valentine’s Day. EB826E5E-117C-4E44-B2D3-245A57194C35 Sander died
The snow keeps coming, we have had to drag the driveway twice with the tractor to clean up the road. Today I did it first thing in the morning and it warmed up enough to melt off all of the driveway. This is the best reason to clean off the snow. The untouched areas of snow are still present and it is supposed to snow every day this week.
6DECC0B0-6E64-4929-9AD8-938EAEE4C7B7
Barn lot

 

 

Phil was wrong

I heard that Phil the groundhog did not see his shadow therefore we would not have 6 more weeks of winter. Well we had snow over the last 24 hours and a winter weather advisory. Luckily for us, we did not get as much snow as was predicted and the storm went north of us. Whenever this happens to us late in winter I always start to have a mild panic attack. I am always fearful that we will run out of hay. What would we feed the animals? Yet, having too much leftover in the barn means you paid for too much hay. It would be one thing if we were producing our own hay then some carryover would not be near as big a deal. We could just sell the extra in the late spring to make room for our next crop. Us doing our own hay is going to be a game changer as far as expenses go for us. Paying out $6-7K annually for hay is not worth raising the animals, we need a source of hay that we don’t have to pay for annually.

It’s going to be real close on the hay and will require me to start bringing over alfalfa hay from the machine shed to finish feeding the sheep. It just dawned on me that we may even be able to put up a little straw for ourselves. This will require us to talk with the nice gentlemen growing wheat on the farm. We only use 2-4 ton of straw annually so not very much.

One of the new lambs decided that to get maximum access to the food it needed to crawl into the feeder and on top of the hay. I had to move the lamb out as I was afraid it would get stuck once its platform got eaten away. I never looked to see if it was a boy or girl but since I don’t see a tag in its right ear I am betting its a girl. A tag in the right ear means its a cull animal and all the boys are not keepers. I went out this morning to feed after a few hours of sleep and there was snow everywhere. The big bales are done so the cows are now eating normal 100# bales of alfalfa but these allow them to tip the feeders very easily. I wanted to feed some alfalfa and a little straw to the cows with the tractor. I started up the tractor even with the temperature under 20 F, no trouble. I let it warm up for a few minutes and put it in gear, the tractor died immediately. I did this 3-4 times all with the same results. I lifted the bucket up and down without any trouble. Stumped I decided that it just needed to warm up some more and I went and fed the sheep and horses. No babies this morning. The “wide as long” ewe was still in her pen and still not doing anything. The sheep are starting to mob me as I am giving them grain in the morning on top of their hay and at night I am tossing a half a bale of alfalfa onto the top of their hay.

When I was feeding the ram and his three ewes I noticed that our water was running again. We have a hand dug well on the property from the 1940’s and it has buried pipe that goes to the barn lot and under the creek over to behind the old chicken coop. The standpipe by the coop is broken and needs to be replaced. This will spontaneously start to flow when the ground water level gets high enough in the well. It will run for 3-4 months. Now we don’t have to bucket water to the ram. I just placed a drinking bucket under the running water and the sheep can just drink as much as they want. The pipes don’t freeze as it runs continuously.

I went back to the tractor and again tried to put it in gear and drive away, and the tractor tried to die. I was able to slip it back into neutral and it stayed running. This led me to think that it was the safety switch in the seat. It is there to make sure someone is sitting on the tractor when driving it or running the PTO. I stood up, beat on the seat a few times with my fist, sat up and down a few times and it worked! Problem solved! I fed the cows and went back inside after 2.5 hours outside doing chores.

This evening when I went out to do chores the “wide as long” ewe had finally had her babies!! She had a set of triplets and they were all sitting up and cleaned off. She paid attention to all three so we are going to let her try to raise them. We will leave them in the separate pen for a few more days to make sure they are all eating well and that mom and babies have bonded.

Little bit windy

It’s been a long week. I am playing catch up and the weather is not really cooperating. Our door latch from Ukraine came this week and it fit perfectly! I was able to get it above the door knob without having to move the knob and I was able to use the hole I accidentally drilled through the door frame 10 years ago. It was almost like I had planned this ten years ago! I talked to Annmarie and I think she is going to print me a plastic bushing on the 3D printer that I can slide into the wooden hole so the door latch doesn’t widen the wooden hole. It is amazing what you can find on the internet these days and have shipped directly to your home. So now none of the dogs can get into the craft room, same for little kids.

The weather has been very strange all week, we have horrible winds. They are sustained around 25-40 MPH with gusts over 70 MPH. Luckily the place is old and has survived 95+MPH winds. The stuff damaged in that wind storm has been repaired or torn down since that occurred right after we had moved in. I have been careful since then to make sure that all stuff is over built due to the unpredictability of our weather and the wind. The wind blows all winter long usually, just not this hard. Our new windows always bow and flex in the wind so we are always surprised at how well they do, none have ever broke in a wind storm. The temperature is over 50 degrees F, which is absurd for a winter in Eastern Oregon. Luckily, our front spring fed creek has been rising steadily over the last two months so there is water going into the ground somewhere.

I started patching all the old curtain rod holder holes in the walls this weekend. I want to get them patched, primed and painted before Christmas. One less eye sore in the downstairs area and one step closer to having a completed main floor. My current dilemma is I cannot find the door to the closet that I removed when doing the floor. At this point I really think I tossed it onto the burn pile and lit it on fire. This sucks but I cannot find it and have dug all around the house with no success. One more thing I am going to have to duplicate. I will finish getting the pictures up on the wall soon also. I am a definitely the 90% project completion type of guy, those last 10% are brutal to finish.

I went outside today to do some more work. The weather was not super conducive to it but it was not freezing so I figured I could get something done. My big goal was to move the scrap metal pile that came from the old house (it has only been there since August 2018). Annmarie can see it just outside the fence through any window on the SE side of the house. She does not like it and thinks I need to move it before our company shows up in January. I was going to bring the old pickup trailer around but it still needs a tire swap and this weather is not conducive to climbing under anything suspended in the air so I opted to use the tractor and just make more trips. After the first load I got distracted and ended up dragging all of the horse poop out from around the barn and releveled the compost pile I had spread out earlier this fall. I need to plant grass seed on it but that is not happening in 45 MPH wind. After every load taken to the metal scrap pile I kept my eye out for more scrap metal along the way, grabbing it off of fence posts and the base of fences. I stash it there all year long as I find it or it surfaces from the ground. I went over and cleaned up the last of the old metal Smith shop area. I took a bucketful of keeper metal to the barn and stashed it in the barn. I took the last of the falling down wooden worktop and put it on the burn pile. I even managed to push the two bucket loads of old hay baling wire that I found buried outside the metal shop onto the scrap pile. My scrap pile is sufficiently big to attract someone to come claim it. It is not worth very much and there are a few gears inside the pile I would like to reclaim if I can find them. I managed to find a manual brake system with the notched locking piece and the handle just stashed over there. I kept that. Eventually I want to put some nonsensical gears and handles and steering wheels throughout the barn.

Annmarie asked me about the grass fields I planted this week so I took the time to run up and check on them. This is good and bad news depending on how you look at it. The first field got done two weeks earlier than the second and got two good rains and some warm temperatures, that is this very nice green field. The second field was two weeks later and I ended up finishing it up in the rain and then it got really cold. It is currently still very dirt like. On the plus side there are no weeds growing either which tells me that the growing conditions are just not there yet. I would love to burn off the barley field but I am afraid to light anything on fire in this wind so it will just have to wait.

I was fortunate to finish the machine shed ceiling support before the windstorm.

We also have a new calf on the ground, it is a week old today. It is probably our biggest calf to date and the mother is still crazy. I cannot wait to get that fence line up so the cows cannot hide down near the creek. They will be stuck in the field away from water. We may need to build some form of three sided, roofed enclosure so the cows can shelter the babies. I will have to consult the wife and mother-in-law for design guidance. I have enough left over 2×8 and 1×12 to make a wooden structure that looks like all of our other outbuildings. I even have some leftover old metal roofing that I can install so it slants toward the hillside so you won’t see it from the houses.

The sheep are so pregnant it is painful to look at them. Every morning we go out expecting to find 8-12 lambs on the ground and every morning we are disappointed. I told Annmarie they were all going to come on Christmas Day and I will have to get the turkey in the oven before helping her corral all the new moms and babies. Today I switched gates around and set up the momma/baby area. I moved a feeder in there for them and filled it with alfalfa. This caused me some problems after the sheep figured out I had the good hay in the momma area. I had to manhandle three ewes to get them out of the area and away from the feeder. I did forget to move one inside gate to allow access to the outside baby area. I will need to bring over some more straw for that area anyways. The goal is to have it all ready so on baby day you just have to toss them in. If you have to do all the setup also its a very long and painful process.

Our 6×8 foot greenhouse came in the mail also. I am going to put it in the orchard after I make a concrete footing for it. If I don’t do that the wind will blow it away. I was going to set it on some loose bricks but after this week there is no way I am going to not attach it permanently with some heavy bolts weighted down with some concrete!