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.
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.
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.
I had to divert from field work on Sunday to take care of a couple of OMG its going to freeze items on the to do list. I fed the cows. I like to try and hold off until November but it was just not going to wait any longer. Annmarie had a great idea, we are going to feed one bale in the orchard and one bale in the pea field (#7 if we use the same counting and a total of 10 fields delineated by fence). This forces the cows to choose and not run off certain cows. I will swing the gates and isolate them to this area only in a few weeks when the weather gets bitter cold. I also had to fill in the ditch we dug this summer to fix the main water line leak. I had not done that yet, so I took the time to fill in the ditch with the piled up dirt I had dug out. It took a lot less time to fill it in than it did to dig it out. After that was all done then I did go pull the disc around.
I spent Monday and Tuesday evening/early nights on the tractor dragging the harrow around. This would have been easier if I had burned off the field first. It keeps getting clogged up with dead plant debris. The upper wheat field (#1) is so rutted from the flooding this spring that it just bounces you all over the place. It’s brutal to sit on that little tractor and get bounced like a monkey in a cage. If if did not keep my seatbelt on I would get tossed off of the tractor. The harrow has a bar and rolling compactor in the back, its an arena groomer, so I am able to really smooth out the field but it means going over the entire field a second time!
Driving around in circles leaves lots of time to think. There are definitely more mice out in the dark then daylight. Unfortunately, there are not six hawks and the local kestrel resident swooping down and killing them at night. I started wishing for owls to drop out of the sky and swoop down and catch mice but none came. Then I thought it would be cool if large mice eating bats would drop out of the sky and start picking up and flying off with mice, very cool. But then it dawned on me that the bats would probably have to be fairly big and blood suckers. It sounded less cool after that so I went on to large spiders. But then I figured the spiders homes would be in the very dirt I was turning up and then the tractor is not tall enough and has no cab. I do not want huge spiders crawling all over me. I went back to my original idea of owls, owls are safe. I had to give it up Tuesday night after a harrow part came loose and I needed two wrenches and only had one on the tractor. It was a sign from above to be done.
Annmarie finished our third batch of apple butter. Really our ninth as we keep making triple batches. My suggestion was to double the spice and cut sugar down from 6 cups to 5 cups. When I came back inside she had tripled the spices and kept the same sugar. It tasted like she had added about half as much sugar as the last batch where she only used 1.5 times the spice. This #3 batch is the best! We are looking to see if we have enough apples for a fourth batch.
Today Mr Professional came out and blew water out of our sprinkler lines and picked up hoses. It is supposed to drop down to mid teens by Saturday and snow. I have not managed to plant yet. I am hoping next week after it warms up I can finish it all up. This is not easy to get all the things done in a day. I finally took tonight off and cleaned up the kitchen, cleaned the hard water deposits off of our apple butter jars and worked on the blog.
Winter is definitely coming, it probably should have been here already but it is time to get ready. Thinking about all the things that need to be done before it freezes. I am also trying to get the fields ready to be planted also. It’s a tough balancing act and I am hoping winter holds off just a little longer, maybe another six weeks!
My mother picked her apple trees so we now have over a 100# of apples. I loved the apple butter Annmarie made last year, I ate all of it! So I wanted lots more this time, unfortunately we thought we had purchased an apple peeler/corer/slicer for our KitchenAid. We had not and had even tossed out our old hand crank one. So while she was in Walla Walla both of us went to various stores until I got lucky and found one. This made processing the apples much easier. We ran them through food processor afterwords and then used an immersion blender in the hot pan. The single biggest takeaway from this was do NOT start apple butter cooking at 1900. This process involved many steps and cannot be rushed. I finished it at 0100. We did a triple batch and got 11 pints, one I ate the next day and two I talked Annmarie into over filling which caused the lids to crease. They are now in the fridge waiting for new homes. I have two people that are willing to eat them right up and not store them. We now have a plan and first thing in the morning I will help Annmarie with the corer/peeler/slicer and once it is cooking I can go outside and do farm work, Annmarie will finish canning them.
I had Mr DirtyClean come out on Wednesday and do four hours of discing. He had a few open hours and I needed the help. Thursday, I went out and disced for a little over five hours. I am averaging about 1.5 hours per acre to get them torn up. After I am done with the disc I will run the arena groomer over it again and knock up the clots and smooth it out. I also want to put the manure forks on the bucket so I can scoop up any weed piles while I am smoothing it out. I think I need about another 6-7 hours to finish field #1. The kestrel is definitely living up there somewhere. I see it every time I go to that end of the farm.
We had to load up two more cows for the butcher Thursday evening. I used the tractor to push the cows into the ram pasture. I was able to drive the new cow/calf pair but once she got into the ram pasture she got in a corner of the pasture and would not move. She kept trying to get at the tractor. This is of course the cow we wanted to turn into hamburger for this exact reason!! So now she gets to keep the calf and we have to keep her away from the bull for another 9-12 months.
Annmarie had to come out and get the cows to go through the gate into the back barn lot. I was having zero luck with my stick and with the newborn calf we could not use the dogs. After she got tire of me waving a stick around in the air and the cows just going around me she jumped off the tractor, started hollering and waving the stick and she had them through the gate and into the corral in about five minutes. I just told her they all knew she was pissed and wanted to avoid it. She does not appreciate my ineptitude at times. It’s a learning process and 13 years later I am still learning!! It seems so natural for some but definitely not me.
The next morning she had to come out and help me get the two cows into the trailer. I had a hard time getting the steer in through the chute. His horns were so wide he could not walk down the chute. His lolly gagging caused the heifer to jump back out of the trailer and now they were head to head in the chute. I kept running them out of the chute and trying to get them back into the trailer. After the third attempt I brought the dogs into the corral and used them on the steer. He did not like the dogs and kept going for them instead of going into the chute. Zeke likes to bite between the horns or on the nose, Mouse likes to bite the back heels or tail. So when the steer went for one dog the other got him. I had been at this a few minutes when Annmarie came out. I managed to get the steer into the trailer by using the dogs to push him down the chute unfortunately the heifer decided to go crazy and jump out. We got them into the trailer and when I delivered them they just calmly walked out. The attendant was surprised at how placid they were. I told him they were just tired.