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.

One day of productivity

Yesterday was the official return to home date after our stint at Church camp, I was the camp nurse and Annmarie was the camp chaplain. It was very relaxing, nothing to do, very little nursing work for me and we both got to take naps every day! Mother Nature could have turned down the heat some but it was so much better than the two weeks prior that I was not going to complain. We brought home 25# of black cherries I picked from an orchard in Cove and we are going to work on trying to eat them all in a week. It’s going to be a challenge but after we gave some out to the various family members so we should be able to do it.

As we were driving down the driveway we had a discussion about me needing to give the cows some more food. I really need to finish tagging that last calf and banding the one that got away. This will allow us to swap cows and sheep. We need to move the four cows in the upper field down to the lower pasture and all the momma, bull and calves and all of the sheep to the upper fields. I can open up field four so that the animals have access to filed #2-4. This should give them enough food for at least 8 weeks if not longer. This no rain or moisture weather is rough on pasture. My Mother-in-law called me this morning while I was picking up Mr Professional to also request that the cows get food today. We went out to get bales but the bucket on the old tractor was acting up and I could only tip the tractor bucket not raise and lower it. So we stopped, cleaned out the linkage, tore it apart, tightened a few spots and then lubed it all up so it works very well again. This will help Mr Rainman finish cleaning out the barn this week. I was able to pull bales out and push them to the cows below and the two stuck in Alcatraz.

Once that was done we dug holes in the front yard and concreted in the two end posts for our new stair railings. We then finished getting most of the substructure completed. We just need to get the outside railing in and the stabilizer boards between the decking boards installed. I need to focus on getting the house cleaned, curtains installed down in the craft room, and toilet paper holder installed in the upstairs bathroom. We have company coming on Saturday so we will need to be ready. I am driving on Friday to go pickup our new ram.

Fooled me

The old black alpaca fooled me into letting him in through the side gate so he could get back into the orchard. He had been wandering on the back hillside alone for days then came down and sat by the orchard gate. I was out feeding the song birds and he kept hooting and mewing at me until I went over and let him through, Annmarie reminded me that all the gates were open and all he needed to do was just go downstream and walk through them. He was on the back hillside all alone wandering around just like the day before in a matter of hours.

The cows got out of their enclosure on Friday, last week. I spotted them from the living room window. It was almost time to go out and do evening chores but I knew that was too much work for me so I snuck out of the house without telling anyone. I took the dogs and we headed up to get the cows. Annmarie had opened a gate to give them more space and a side gate was open allowing them to get on the back hillside. Zeke and Mouse got them back in the correct field. I only had to walk straight up the bottom field hollering nonstop at the dogs. Mouse works for AnnMarie way better than he does for me but we got it done. When I turned around to come back Annmarie was at the gate watching me and waiting to castigate me for not telling her the cows were out and allowing her to help. I told her the dogs and I were capable of getting the cows in. She still had to do the evening chores and get eggs.
The chewed up chicken croaked. It will now get a trip to the boneyard. I thought it was gonna make it, as they usually die within the first 24 hours.
Mr Professional came out and fed the cows the same day. He even moved the dog house that was still sitting on the trailer to down by my mother-in-law’s. The cats will appreciate is. He put it under the porch in the back yard. I will need to move it around to the side near the back door leading up the stairs, but it will have to wait until I have some energy.

I will be supporting the hay growers for another year.

Well it’s been a continuation of 2020 issues. I did not get any fields planted. I am going to focus on (#1) at the far end of the property. I will keep it idle all next year and keep it cleared of all weeds and growth. This will let me pick rocks and get it all smoothed out and ready for grass seed in the fall, September!! I need to pick about 6 tons of rock out of it. It has about 2 acres that are really bad and they need some serious attention so I don’t break the sickle bar mower again. I will be placing my order for more hay early. I will also need to find some small bale growers nearby. I don’t want to have to drive more than about 30 miles each way. It takes multiple trips to get enough hay for the sheep.

It is snowing today. The first snow of the winter and according to the weatherman we might have a severe winter with high amounts of snow. Since we already have over 18” of rain for the year and this week got 1.5” of rain in a 24 hour window I am thinking the weatherman is correct. Our normal rainfall is around 12” this is causing us to have to rethink how we are going to work our fields.

Annmarie and I worked on using some surveying equipment to tell the rise of the property from our irrigation pump to the house (about 13’) and then onto the top of the ram pasture. She is going to plan for 30’ of lift and we are going to purchase a new pump and pressure switch setup. It’s 600’ from the pump to the house. We are going to water a few acres and plant in the spring. We need the pasture to stay greener longer in the middle of the summer when we have zero rain. Irrigation set up, spraying and field prep (#1) will be the focus next year. Get one field done then next year move onto another.

Feeding of all the animals starts in earnest today as there is now snow on the ground. I am headed out soon to push bales out to the cows and sheep. Five sheep will be sorted off today to go to slaughter. That will be the last of the weathers and we will have sold off all the lambs before the end of the year. I am going to not use the horse trailer and put the racks on the pickup. I don’t want to pull the horse trailer in the snow tomorrow. I will have to take my work clothes in with me in the am as I am going to have to catch the sheep one at a time and put them in the back of the pickup. I am not convinced I need a ramp just yet. There is an old one on the property but it needs some work. I may fix it next year when I fix the post hole auger.

Crawling might be faster

I have spent 13 more hours working on the upper seven acre field. I am using the harrow/arena groomer on it to smooth it out but due to all the organic matter in the field the harrow keeps getting plugged. I have managed to build walls on two sides of the field from all the debris. This is causing me to have to go over areas multiple times to collect and remove all of the stuff. I still have about another four hours. This is causing me to have to reevaluate how the fields are going to get planted. I cannot do 20 acres at a time. It is just too much ground. I am going to have to only do 4-7 acres/year or look at getting someone to custom plant 15-20 acres for us. I just cannot do that much with my little equipment.

The kestrel and red tailed hawks, adults and this year’s nestlings, have finally gotten used to me running the tractor around in circles and patterns in field #1. They have started to watch for mice and dive bomb them after I have passed by. I saw both kestrels yesterday! I usually only ever see one but I spotted two yesterday and the new hawks don’t have their red tails yet. The wind has been blowing such that with the hill and updraft the hawks can literally float on the wind. I saw one stay in the same position for over 20 minutes and never flapped its wings once! It just kept twitching its wings causing micro adjustments in its wing shape. The pheasants are out in droves! I saw five roosters on the way to the field and again on the way back to the house seven hours later. They are not very jumpy this year which is highly unusual.

I have included a picture of me raking the leaves. You will notice the difference as there are fewer sheep and they are all very fat from eating all summer long. I like to switch it up from the me mowing the lawn pictures. After an entire morning grazing they are sitting out in the sun resting, it does not look like they made any progress on the leaves. This process may take a couple of weeks. I will be hard at work!

Winter is here sorta, it got down into the teens, temperature wise but this week it got to over 60 degrees during the week. It is not normal. It is supposed to rain over 1/2” by the end of the week. That is going to mess up my planting schedule. If I had not had to fix all the flood damaged fencing I could have spent those six weeks planting. Oh well, back to baby steps. One foot forward every day will get us to the finish line.

We had let the alpaca back into the cow area when I fed the cows last week. This lone black alpaca, we think Snoop, wandered off by himself. We thought he was lost so Annmarie herded him back out to his buddies. The first chance he got he got back in with the cows and then isolated himself again. We think he is just old and tired of the BS male dominance fighting. We are letting him stay by himself this time.

The chickens discovered a section of the new fence in the barn lot that I did not make chicken proof. It’s on the opposite side of the water and only about four feet long but they found it and have been using it to get into the flower area that I wanted them exiled from. So now I will need to fix that at some point.