One more field fenced in sorta

On Friday Hoss and I went up to the swamp field and worked on getting the creek side fence installed. I was hoping to get it all done on Friday, but my back was bothering me so I took medications and kept working. We ran out of woven wire! I even called the metal scrap yard but they only had one roll. We happen to be using some 48″ woven Red Brand fencing so it did not require any smooth wire on top. We quit around 1400 and I ended up going into town and picked up a single roll of woven wire and two utility panels. I keep calling them cow panels but when I go to purchase them I have to remember to call them a utility panel or they cannot find it in the computer.

I was unable to get up and go out and work on Saturday due to my back pain. An ice pick and napalm had nothing on it. Hoss finished getting the fence up, hung two gates and blocked off a four foot section. He is done for the summer as I have run out of money! The fence still needs a couple of days of work as I need to install all of the T-post clips in it. He put enough in it to hold up the fence. The sheep are now roaming all three fields and can hopefully tear up the far field. I don’t think they can knock it all down but they can hopefully thin it out.

Last night we got a call from Annmarie’s mother that the raccoons were out enforce on her front porch. So Annmarie grabbed the 22 rifle and I grabbed the trusty Walther P22 pistol. I have not gotten a laser for the new Ruger Mark IV yet. I gimped around the house until I found second flashlight and we walked down to the house. There were five raccoons on the front porch! The real problem is you cannot shoot any so we had to go up to the side of the house so we could shoot sideways and not hit anything. I shot at a couple of the large ones as they darted off and sent Annmarie around the back of the house so see if she could finish them off. This is where the story gets fuzzy. She claims that I do not get to count the raccoons as dead unless there is a body. The raccoons did get hit, but they do not die easily. I ended up with one dead and hit at least 2 more maybe three. She keeps telling me that I need more practice and in that I agree. It is a lot harder to hit a moving target in the dark than it is in the day. So I am going to have to put about a 1000 rounds through my new Ruger pistol. It has a five inch barrel instead of a two inch barrel. Its time to let the Walther retire and move up in the accuracy department. I need a laser and a holster but Annmarie reminded me I can use my vest with built in holster until I get a new one. I also need at least one more clip as I almost ran out rounds last night. Five predators is a lot of moving targets to be trying to kill in the dark. I need more rounds. So according to Annmarie I only killed one raccoon as that is number of bodies I tossed onto the bone pile.

While I was digging around in the bushes for my victims (they ran away) the cows came running over to the fence and started to holler. They get fed apples almost every day so they think all humans should feed them. I spent 20 minutes picking up and tossing them apples from the yard. I noticed two calves that still need ear tags and one needs banding. We have a brand new calf but that cow was not getting any where near the fence. She had a brand new calf nursing on her. I could not tell whether it was a boy or a girl from that far away.

That hurts

This Saturday we decided to tag and band the lambs. There was much discussion (arguing) as to how many lambs we actually had and wether or not the coyotes had been picking them off. Annmarie shot one Friday night and I missed one later in the day Saturday, so we know they are close to the barn lot. We opted to not use the dogs to push the sheep from the barn lot into the barn. We wanted the sheep to remain calm and just mosey on into the barn. Well they were calm, way too calm. We finally had to get shaker sticks to encourage them the last little bit of the way into the barn. Once in the barn we put up three gates to shrink the available area for them to roam in and I grabbed the tag and band supplies. I sit down on the floor of the barn with the supply bin on my left and my coffee to the right. The coffee didn’t last five minutes before some random sheep knocked it over repeatedly. I finally had to give up on having coffee during this labor intensive endeavor (I spent the entire time on my backside while Annmarie did the lamb catching!). We ended tagging 25 lambs and 2/3 of those were boys. We still have had more girls than boys lambs born on the farm since we started over 10 years ago. We have just been increasing the ear tag numbers every year sequentially and we started with the number one.

After the sheep were done we decided to work the cows. This required closing gates and setting up the corral for the cows. I was in the barn getting fly spray for the cows when I heard this bone chilling scream coming from the corral area. Both Hoss and myself were in the barn and we took off for the corral. I thought Annmarie was being mauled and stomped by the bull or one of the three steer in the corral. Nope, the asshole of the bee verse, a yellow jacket, had stung her on the hand and she had responded by trying to verbally assault the offending party at the top of her lungs. She went inside to treat the fire in in her hand after I agreed to find and kill the offending party. I had placed an old sheep horn in the corral fencing and it made a great place to build a Yellow jacket nest. I gave Hoss the spray and told him to go kill all the offending parties. He did and then we sprayed the cows with fly spray, we had to let the four cows out of the chute after the bull and another started fighting. We ended up letting the bull go out to the other female cows. He has not been near the house since rejoining the female persuasions.

Hoss and I then went up to the Upper Prime Field and finished installing wood stays along the creek side of the new fence. We used 100 of the 200 I had just purchased the night before. On the way out of the field we stopped and patched the new cross fence in six places. The last little section of fence near the new T -brace and new gate needed to be reworked. Hoss had not stapled the fence to the T-brace, once we did that a wire needed moved down to just above the woven wire. A few more wooden stays got installed and the fence is now sheep proof! The new fence, a section of the old fence has 6 strands and no woven wire. It may need some more T-posts and wooden stays but for now it should keep the sheep inside.

Hoss will start in on the next pasture on Monday, I want him to start in on the wheat field side and we will work our way around the field counter clockwise. I figure it will take 2-3 weeks to get it done, no more than 4 weeks hopefully.

We need to use bull Alcatraz

Annmarie called me on Wednesday, while I was at work to let me know that the bull was out. When I went to answer her call I noticed that I had a text on my phone from a neighbor saying our bull was out. Her call was that he was out and she had managed to get him into a neighbor’s corral and needed me to bring the horse trailer.

So I drove home and got Hoss to back up to the horse trailer. We have not used the trailer since we bought it two years ago. We knew it would be needed. Hoss and I had to unload the wood out of the trailer before we could use it. It had a flat tire and the spare was flat. Luckily, I knew there was a tire pump in the pickup we just needed to get there to use it.

We were able to back right up to the corral and use two panels to make an alleyway and the bull just went right into the trailer. Usually the bull pushes through a creek crossing or gets through the wires. Hoss will look at the fence line after they get the bull put away. I convinced Annmarie that we should put the bull up with the steers in the upper prime pasture as we just fixed that fence. I went back to work as they unloaded the bull.

Annmarie called me again at work in the early afternoon to say that the bull was out again!! This time he had gone the other way and headed up the creek. Annmarie headed up with the pickup and dogs to push him our way. I headed home early. I should have stopped at the house and change shoes, but I knew that Annmarie wanted to get done as our company had just arrived and she had left them alone at the house.

As I was driving up the gravel road looking for Annmarie I called her and she hollered stop I see you as I drove down the road. She had been with the uncooperative bull and the two deaf dogs for over 45 minutes. One would not know that she was to be ordained this week as a priest!! Mouse thought that the only way to move the bull was to grab his tail or bite his heels. I ended up having to walk up to the bull and take over the dogs as they had gotten ahead of Annmarie. I got him down to the road and let him out onto it. He started ambling home and I went and got my car. I could see Annmarie coming off the hill but the bull was going out of sight. Once Annmarie saw the car moving a steady stream of yelled comments began and I ended up stopping, getting out and chasing the bull on foot while Annmarie drove the car. The dogs, I and the car pushed him back to top of our property and he turned down and started headed home. We got him into the corral and locked him in. He will be staying there until Sunday so we don’t have to chase him down again. It took us two hours this time to get him.

The next day the bull had a pretty bad limp. He has a bad left front foot and when he walks too much it bothers him. He was not getting any sympathy from either one of us its his own fault.

Supposed to get something done

It was a holiday weekend so I had an extra day off. I had all these plans on accomplishing tons of things, this did not happen. I did get some stuff done but not as much as I envisioned. I also ended up with a couple of surprises. Sometimes the surprises are not pleasant and this weekend was no exception to that rule. I spent Thursday and Friday finishing digging out the barn. Hoss went to play in the mountains for the holiday so I finished digging out the barn the first day and then spent the next day moving piles of straw and sheep manure onto our compost pile. We have two piles and the old pile is almost ready to be distributed as soil. It takes 2-3 years to break down the straw and manure into a usable substance.

Meathead came out and sheared the dogs. Annmarie asked her to use a longer blade and she did not want to shear their tails. She is opposed to them having rat tales. It is easier to keep the cheat grass out of their hides with a shorter coat.

We went out and covered one of the plum trees on Saturday. It is loaded and the bats are out at night and Annmarie is hoping this will keep the bird and bats away from the fruit. We looked at the other trees but they do not have very much fruit on them. I will need to shape the trees this winter and we are going to shorten the tree skirting. We are talking about putting the two bully alpacas out with the three sold eating cows. This way we only have to skirt the trees for the sheep and not alpacas or horses.

We have a lot of thistles in the orchard so I am going to push the entire sheep herd into the orchard for a few days to eat the entire field down, then I will work on killing thistles again.

I got the post hole auger installed on the tractor Saturday and had plans to dig all the post holes on Sunday. Unfortunately I decided that I needed to weed eat the front driveway as the cheat grass and weeds were getting out of control. I moved the pickup back out of the driveway as it was covering weeds. I left my car in place and Annmarie was at church. On one of my trips to the pickup for weed eater fuel I noticed that my car window was busted out! Now mind you I had goggles and hearing protection on but the rocks getting kicked up from the weed eater were pelting me and they hurt. It did not occur to me that I would blow out a window on my car while trying to make the driveway neater. This sucks and now I have to get it replaced.

I did finally get on the tractor and go out and start trying to drill holes in the ground. The first five holes I only managed to get about 2-4 inches down. I did not have a bucket but will bring one up and start filling the holes with water. I will need to do that for a few days to soften up the dirt. Once I got down into the bottom fields the soil was actually muddy once I got six inches below the surface. This would explain the weed jungle that I have in the upper field. It is so bad I cannot even mow it. I have the tractor bucket fully raised at 8 feet and the weeds are still taller. The plan is to get the fence up around this field and to push the sheep up in the morning and bring them in at night. Our hope is the sheep can tear it up and thin it out so I can get the mower through it. There is still a muddy area in the middle of the field that I cannot drive the tractor through. Our hope is the sheep will knock it down enough I can get the tractor in to see the wet areas and dig a few ditches to let it drain better. I got 9 holes completed and five started, only 12 more to go.

On the way back to the house I noticed our three feeder cows out of their fence. The gate had not been latched correctly and they got out. I had to move gates around and get them pushed back into their pasture. The gate is latched correctly now.

My hope is that Hoss and I can get some fencing done this week, time will tell.

Three more projects

We got back from California last week and I proceeded to dig back into the farm on Sunday. Tex watched our animals while we were gone and everyone survived. I decided I needed to try and finish up the short stretch of fence we have been at for a month. I finished filling the rock crib on the left and topped off the other one that Tex had filled. I then went up and started to dig a hole for the middle support railroad tie. The ground is pretty much fist sized rocks the entire way down. I managed to get about 1.5 feet down and decided to call it a day as I had enough dealing with rocks. I swapped out the box blade on the tractor and hooked up the mower. I wanted to try and get the property out by the cars mowed down. I also figured I could mow a path for the new fence that needs to go in down by the creek. My grant is approved so now I just need to get cracking on the new fence. The first step is to use string and spray paint to mark out the fence. Once that is done we can start pounding T posts into the ground, after I buy them. The paint will give me an accurate count so i don’t over purchase.

While I was down by the school house I realized I needed to get the irrigation water back into the ditch. It had been flood irrigating the lower bottom but I need to get in there and cut for hay. To do this without sinking the tractor I need the bottoms to dry out some. So I dug out the ditch and got all the water flowing down the ditch again. I should be able to cut hay by the end of the week. Since I managed to forget my hat in California I had to be super careful of the sun. I ended up with a lobster skull for several days and didn’t want to make it worse. So I had lots of protective gear. If I wear all this getup I can spend all day out in the 100F beating down sun and not get burned.

“Star” our white tailed cow, had her baby on Sunday. I know this as the baby was still wet and sitting up when I went by her and mom on the tractor. They looked good. Most likely Star will hide the baby for the next couple of weeks and we won’t spot it. If we don’t see it in another week I will go down and look for it. At that point I will just be trying to confirm it died. Hopefully she is just hiding it from prying eyes.

The cows are no different than the sheep, one adult female becomes the babysitter and is responsible for corralling and entertaining all of the babies. I have yet to figure out how they choose whose turn it is today or this week to watch the babies but it is better to avoid this appointment. There are enough babies now that that appointee has to actually work.

The holiday afforded me the time to get all of my outside mowing completed. I will be haying by the end of the week.

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.