Really, we are almost winterized

Last weekend I was very productive! I am still in winterizing mode and there is still plenty left to do. On Friday last week, I cleaned out the machine shed to make room for both tractors. I need to be able to park them out of the weather. Annmarie, let me know we needed to get the lavender trimmed up, another winterizing chore. I broke out the new DeWalt battery hedge trimmer and started in on the task. This turned out to be a little more difficult than I imagined. The lavender had shoots super low and I had to lift them up to cut them and the huge tree keeps dropping small branches into the lavender making it necessary to clean out the lavender bunch before trimming. I only got half the patch done before it got super cold and for sanity reasons I needed to go back into the house.

On Saturday it was cold, very cold. I put on neck warmer, wool shirt, carhart insulated bibs stocking cap and thick insulated gloves. I wanted something warm to drink, my go to drink is coffee. Coffee is the perfect drink and solves most of what ills a person. I was in a hurry and ended up just boiling some water and throwing a tea bag into the thermos. I wanted to get out and finish the ditch up in field #1. I keep trying to get it finished before we get a hard freeze. I was able to get another 200 feet dug up, reinforced. I found a 20 foot section of the embankment that had been washed out in the last flood. It took quite a while to get this section built back up. It was cold, so I broke out the hot tea. Yeah, it’s tea, simply not a substitute for coffee. I only tried it a couple more times out of thermoregulatory needs, it was cold! The oddest and best part of the day was that my coat smelled amazing. The lavender I had cleaned up and removed from the patch ended up rubbing some lavender oil on my coat and when the wind let off or I had to wipe my nose I could smell the lavender. It made for a nice surprise.

Sunday I decided to start feeding the cows out of our overflow hay in the corral. Each bale weighs around 40# and I fed 16 bales to the upper cows and 16 to the lower cows. I can get 8 on the tractor at a time. I have learned to cut off the net wrapping before I load them onto the tractor so I can just drive them out and dump them off. Its way faster this way and I can contain the wrap. This year I have started putting a bag of used wrap in the trash can weekly. I don’t want to have a huge pile by the spring. I went back to the lavender patch and got it all trimmed up. I pulled weeds and raked the entire patch. The only thing left in the garden to do is to trim the raspberries. I pulled out the prime rib from the freezer. We are going to have it for Thanksgiving

Predators 8, Farm 3

It’s that time of year again, to count how many animals we have lost to predators. We had one calf drown in the flash flood and that is not counted against the predators. We have lost no other cows.

The sheep are another story. We have lost two lambs so far. One we just found the remains of in field four this week. I had been smelling it for a week but could not find it. The smell would come and go and was hard to pinpoint. Annmarie was putting in the sheep with the puppy on a lead and she spotted a buzzard! When the buzzard jumped off, so full it could not fly, she walked over to the skin and a few bones. The other one was last week, we had one with a broken back. I blame the cougar for this one. We had a cougar go through the property that morning and we think the sheep panicked and it somehow broke its back. I had to put it down. The cougar has not passed through again but it is concerning so we will be catching all of the sheep this upcoming weekend to tag and band everyone and get an accurate count of all of the lambs.

The chickens so far I have lost 6 this year. They are random disappearances and every month I count the number left at some point. I put it on my egg counting sheet so I can calculate the productivity rate of the chickens. We know the chickens are the victims of the raccoons. So far we have dispatched three raccoons but there are at least two more still roaming the place.

I need some more target practice with my 22 pistol. The wife is a better shot with the lever action 30-30. I keep telling her that a pistol is not designed to shoot 75 feet, she keeps telling me what my excuse is when its close. Hence the reason I need more practice.

Spring winter

It is spring, mid April and yes we had several major snow storms! It is miserable outside so we have had to go out and feed everyone hay. Luckily, we have just enough feed left to get through one more week of any kind of weather. It did finally melt off but now we have a night and morning of snow which covers everything and the temperature hovers right at 32 degrees F. By 1400 every day the sun comes out and the snow melts off and all of the green grass pokes out allowing all of the animals to go out and feed on grass. It has been miserable to go outside, the wind is blowing and it is very cold. I have had to scrape my windows twice this week just to get to work at 0500. I even had to sweep off the walkway one morning as it had about three inches of snow on it.

The wheat looks amazing and our grass fields are really starting to come up now. If we could get a couple of weeks of warm spring weather everything would just take off and shoot up into the air. We are still considering downsizing the cows based on the price of hay. We may have to jump the price up dramatically to cover feed costs. We need about 7-8 ton of hay per month to feed all of the cows. Last year we paid around $265/ton for alfalfa in large bales. The real problem is if we have a dry desert like summer you have to start feeding by September. So you feed for about 7 months or six months if you are lucky. We will have gone through 45 ton. We did not cover feed expenses last year. So we are going to look at costs again and decide whether its worthwhile or not to have this many large animals.

The sheep are easier and cheaper to feed. We just need to raise the price on them this year also to reflect the new prices. It’s sticker shock when you go to buy something these days but meat in the grocery store is very expensive. We are hoping the snow and cold did not affect the fruit trees but if they were trying to bloom there is no way they survived the repeat 25 F we kept getting several nights in a row.

Staycation 100% done

Well all good things must come to an end and I am no longer on vacation and am back to work. It has been busy so I was unable to post this on Sunday night. Annmarie got me to actually leave the house on Friday night and we went and visited friends and stayed the night. It was nice and now we are planning on them coming over to visit us.

Saturday when we got back we went right into sorting sheep. Our buyer from Elgin was coming over and we had to sort off his 20 lambs. They helped us sort everyone and we got theirs into the trailer and out the door. We now have our small herd of lambs out in the orchard. For some reason this year everyone has wanted a lamb. We have sold 13 lambs to local customers and 20 lambs to our Elgin contact. We have been discussing the prospect of expanding our sheep herd and shrinking the cow herd, the price of hay is going to determine what we do as it may not be cost effective to carry a bunch of cows through the winter. We then had to move the cows down to the lower pasture as they had laid over the fence and were walking around outside the fence. They thought they were starving. I did a 30 minute fix on the fence so the sheep could not get out and vowed to come back and fix the fence on Sunday.

On Sunday I went out to fix the laid over fence. This really meant that I had to dig and set eight wooden posts by hand as the fence was too close to the water to back the John Deere tractor up to the spot needing a hole. Instead I did it all by hand and even ended up putting a scoop of gravel behind every T-post to fill in the gap created by straightening the post. I had to tamp it all down to make the post rigid. I got all of them in but still need to repair one H brace as it is made out of round posts and one of them turned. This is of course the one with the chain gate tightener on it. This means the chain is so tight you cannot get it off to open the gate. Luckily, I don’t need the gate to open right now so this repair is going on the back burner.

Annmarie has started to work on the back garden and is getting things planted. We are going to have strawberries in one tower and herbs in the other. Currently, she is working out water inside the towers, the connections keep exploding and making a mess. She thinks she has a working plan now to fix it.

Staycation started

Well it’s official, I am on vacation at home for the next 17 days. I had to take the first batch of cows in on Friday morning. Unfortunately, Annmarie and I had a dinner to attend Thursday evening. So I was outside in the dark trying to move animals. We have it set up now so you can push animals through the orchard then through our front yard into the corral. This is infinitely more preferable to just letting them out into the area surrounding our houses. They can run all over and with the buildings and piles of stuff all around it makes herding them very difficult.

The two new alpaca were still in the orchard so I ”let” them out. This sounds easy but they did not want to go out the gate and kept running past the open gate. I did this several times then went out the open gate and tried to drive two of our main herd alpacas into the orchard. This was another abysmal failure. I had a head lamp on and I had a bright flash light that I would shine on the gate opening. I went back into the orchard muttering to the alpaca that they needed to comply or else I was going to have to go get the border collie, Mouse. They have not been exposed to the dogs except through the fence and I did want the conditions to be better before relationships get established. Eventually, with running back and forth I managed to get them to go through the gate, then latched it. I went down to pasture #5a which borders the orchard, latched the gate that goes out into the main grazing area and opened the gate into the orchard. The cows usually come in at night and hang out near my mother-in-law’s house and they were so I did not have to go all the way down to the school house and try and run them back. Again, the cows did not want to go through the gate. The green tag cow kept breaking and running behind me. This reminded me of why we are getting rid of her, she is so painful to deal with on multiple levels. After much effort on my part I was able to get the cows into the orchard. There was no way I was going to get them through the four foot gate, into our front yard then into the corral alone. I opted to go get some help that is used to my working animals language. Mouse, came out with me! It is hard to see a black and white border collie in the dark so we have some collar hanging bobs that strobe white. We used to use them when letting the dogs out to potty at night. They would pretend they could not hear us because we could not see them. The lights stopped that nonsense. I found one that still worked and put it on Mouse. This way I could see where the dog was and only had to worry about finding the cows with the flashlight. It was rough going initially. Mouse still thinks a problem should be dealt with head on hence his propensity for straight lines. Eventually with enough yelling and trial and error we established an effective communication method that allowed us both to kinda get what we wanted. Once we had the cows into the corral area they ran back behind the barn. Unfortunately, all of our cows happened to be in the barn lot and everyone started raising a ruckus and I was afraid the four would go through the fence to join the herd. Mouse and I managed to dissuade this desire and got them locked into the corral area. Now when I came out in the morning and backed the trailer up to the corral the cows can just be encouraged to load up.

The plan worked! I had no trouble getting the cows loaded and taken in to the abbotoir. That was the first four, I will take the last three in for their final destination in a couple of weeks. This is good because yesterday morning I went to pull the pickup over to the flat bed trailer and the pickup would not start, totally dead! Even though I had all the spare parts and tools with me on our Salem trip in case we got stranded this would have been bad. The last time I was stranded with Annmarie in the vehicle we bought a new pickup. She doesn’t like hanging out on the roadside. The pickup just needs some TLC which it will get as soon as I drop off the last three. Mr Professional got the new battery connection installed, unfortunately the old one was glued on and it took some extra tools to get it off the battery terminal without injuring the battery. I drove right over and we hooked up the flatbed trailer. While he worked on the battery I worked to clean up the seeder/fertilizer thrower. I used wire brush grinder to remove and smooth out all of the rust. I had to clean and adjust the window doors and scrape off the old caked on grease. I ended up breaking off one of the grease zerks trying to tighten it and had to use an easy out tool to remove it. Mr Professional put it on the tractor and greased it all up while I was off buying farm supplies.

We had a long discussion about needed supplies and since the price of fuel, spray, fertilizer and seed has jumped dramatically this last three weeks we felt it was best to get it all now. I have to say that I had plans to hold off on some of these items as I was going to purchase them over the entire year. I went to Pendleton and bought railroad ties (entire bundle)- they should be out of them by the end of this week. I bought the very last roll of smooth wire in the store. I bought some woven wire, I only needed one roll but bought two more just in case. I bought enough T posts to redo the fence down by four corners. The gate price had jumped over 20% already so I bought that also. We looked at chemicals to spray on the farm and I picked up the rest I would need for the whole year. I got the tighteners needed for the new fence on four corners. Today I just gave up and bought the ballast box I need for the kubota when using the forks. I also bought another quick hitch category 1 hitch for the Kubota. I bought a chain holder for the tractor also and some bushings for the category one hitch that lets me get away from the pins. I got a speed handle for the Kubota also, they are super nice and the one on the Mistress has been amazing. I just ordered all the lights for the machine shed. Luckily, I already ordered the parts for the baler and now just need to install them.

Unfortunately, this dramatic rise in price of everything means we will be doing a bunch of maintenance on all the equipment. We are going to rewire the flat bed trailer and the horse trailer. I purchased those supplies this weekend also. The fuel tank has been emptied so now I can get it filled with diesel, if only I had done it three weeks ago…

Mr Professional went out and spread about 35# of grass seed onto a few thin spots on field #1. We had a nice light rain last night 8/100” so the seed should be wet and now we just need some warm weather. I need about 5-7 days with no rain and I can plant the last 2 acre field with grass seed and the planting will be done until fall.

I have all the stuff to strip and stain the upstairs doors. But I need to empty off the breeze porch first, tomorrow the child and I will be going through the entire house and removing the giveaway. We may even add to the giveaway pile! My goal is to thin everything pretty hard. I went through two kitchen cupboards today and removed a pile of stuff.

Annmarie found the plans for our future outdoor dining area. We just need to find a used grain bin for sale to tear down and use the components. We also looked at my retirement projects using a welder and a lot of horse shoes! Currently, I think I may be able to make the chicken.